A few days ago, I posted an article by Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg, in which he explained that Finnish teachers are not “the best and the brightest,” but those who are bright, caring, and committed to a career in education.


One of our regular readers, who often is a contrarian, posted the following critical comment:


I would like to hear Sahlberg’s thoughts on the massive gender gap in Finnish reading scores. Finnish boys’ PISA scores are statistically indistinguishable from US boys’, and Finland’s boy-girl gap is by far the largest in the world, about twice as large as the US gap.


Perhaps there are some reasons to hold off on emulating Finland.


I contacted Pasi, who is a personal friend, and he replied:

Thanks for the question. Indeed, this is a big issue in Finland and has been
for awhile. And not only in reading but across the board of academic
subjects. One thing that makes gender gap in reading so big is
exceptionally high reading literacy performance (and positive reading
habits) among Finnish girls. Researchers are well aware of this and
policymakers try to find ways to engage boys more in reading and schooling
in general. Recent emphasis on theme or phenomenon based teaching and
learning is one step.


I asked him whether girls outperform boys in math as well, and he said yes, but not so much as in reading. Finland is the only OECD nation where the gender gap favors girls.


There is your answer, Tim.