Pasi Sahlberg tries in this article to dispel the myth that Finnish teachers are specifically “the best and brightest.” He notes that misguided education leaders have tried to devise ways to attract the teachers with the highest test scores. But, he says, that is not what Finnish education leaders do.

Finnish teacher educators do not believe that teacher quality correlates directly with academic ability.

“The University of Helsinki could easily pick the best and the brightest of the huge pool of applicants each year, and have all of their new trainee teachers with admirable grades.

“But they don’t do this because they know that teaching potential is hidden more evenly across the range of different people. Young athletes, musicians and youth leaders, for example, often have the emerging characteristics of great teachers without having the best academic record. What Finland shows is that rather than get “best and the brightest” into teaching, it is better to design initial teacher education in a way that will get the best from young people who have natural passion to teach for life.”

Those who become teachers in Finland are carefully chosen, carefully prepared, and are fully committed to a career as teachers.

Note that the term “Best and Brightest” was used ironically by the late author David Halberstam to refer to the “geniuses” from Ivy League universities who got our military mired in a pointless and ultimately failed war in Vietnam. To be the “Best and Brightest” is not a compliment.