Finland’s educational success became an international sensation when the nation’s students unexpectedly topped the PISA test a few years back. The Finns really don’t care much about rankings and standardized tests, and they were as surprised as everyone else. Thousands of visitors came to Finland to find out what they were doing. Then Finland slipped out of first place, and the gossip mill began spinning out theories about why Finland was losing its luster. Finland still doesn’t care about rankings or test scores.

In this post, Finnish expert Pasi Sahlberg and Finnish educator Peter Johnson explain what Finland is doing and what it is not doing to improve its schools (not its test scores).

They identify the three cornerstones of Finnish education:

*Education systems and schools shouldn’t be managed like business corporations where tough competition, measurement-based accountability and performance-determined pay are common principles. Instead, successful education systems rely on collaboration, trust, and collegial responsibility in and between schools.

*The teaching profession shouldn’t be perceived as a technical, temporary craft that anyone with a little guidance can do. Successful education systems rely on continuous professionalization of teaching and school leadership that requires advanced academic education, solid scientific and practical knowledge, and continuous on-the-job training.

*The quality of education shouldn’t be judged by the level of literacy and numeracy test scores alone. Successful education systems are designed to emphasize whole-child development, equity of education outcomes, well being, and arts, music, drama and physical education as important elements of curriculum.

They then debunk the myths and misperceptions that have been bruited about.

Unlike the U.S., where billions of dollars are wasted in efforts to switch control of schools from public to private, Finnish educators are trying to work through the problems of building a curriculum and pedagogy for the 21st century–and beyond.