Finland is generally recognized as one of the
world’s highest performing nations. Over the past decade, Finnish
students have been high performers on the international PISA exams.
In Finnish schools, students never take a standardized test. How is
their progress assessed? By their

Finnish educators say that the key to
their success is the high quality of their teachers. Not just a
star here and there, but the profession as a whole has high
standards for entry and for preparation. There are no shortcuts to
becoming a teacher in Finland. Teachers are highly respected, just
as much as other professions.

Finland believes in
high-quality teacher education. Students apply to enter teacher
colleges at the end of high school. The small nation’s eight
teacher preparation institutions are highly selective. Only one of
ten applicants is accepted, based on multiple measures, including
an essay, an entry test, an interview, and evidence of a high
motivation to teach. In addition to studying liberal arts subjects
and the subjects they will teach, future teachers study pedagogy,
theory, and conduct research about education. They learn how to
teach students with disabilities.Tthey take the study of education
seriously. They practice teaching. Preparing to become a teacher
takes five years. Then and only then may they become

Higher education is completely free.
Finland views education as a basic human right, and as such, free
of cost to students. Thus, graduates of higher education in Finland
have no student debt to pay off. They can get as much education as
they want at no cost to them, because it is good for

There are no alternative routes into
teaching. There is no Teach for Finland. Nor would anyone be
accepted as a teacher with an online degree. Nor would someone who
had a degree in physics or history be allowed to teach in a Finnish
school unless they had the required pedagogical

Once graduates of the pedagogical
institutions become teachers, they have wide latitude about their
daily work in the classroom. Within each school, the principal and
teachers together make many decisions about what and how to teach
The national curriculum provides guidelines, but does not intrude
upon the professionalism of teachers. Teachers are trusted to make
the right decisions about and for their

Finland has a NAEP-style national
assessment, but it is (like NAEP) based on sampling and has no
consequences for students, teachers, or

Because there is no standardized
testing, teachers are never evaluated by the rise or fall of their
students’ test scores. There is no value-added assessment in

Finnish schools have small classes (I
visited three schools and never saw a class with more than 20
students). Finnish teachers use technology as a matter of course.
The arts are very important in Finnish schools, as are recess and
physical education.

Almost every Finnish teacher
and principal belongs to a union. They belong to the same union.
The union represents the interests of the profession in discussions
of national policy. Once a person becomes a teacher, they have
lifetime tenure. Few people leave the profession for which they
have trained so rigorously. The working conditions are good. They
are held in high esteem by their fellow citizens. Why would anyone
want to leave?

In Pasi Sahlberg’s award-winning
book, “Finnish Lessons,” he says that the crucial reforms in
Finnish education were drawn in large part from American educators
like John Dewey. That is why the teaching profession is highly
valued, and the classrooms are student-centered, test-free, and
devoted to the full development of each child’s full