Have you ever wondered how your education would be different if you grew up in a different country? Besides promoting socialization, education stimulates not only tools such as literacy and numeracy, but also the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values required to live and work in society. By educating an individual we attempt to give him some desirable knowledge, understanding, skills, interests, attitudes and critical “thinking”. These skills heavily increase an individuals’ odds of success.
Every nation in the world is equipped with some form of education system, but those systems vary greatly. The major factors that affect education systems are the resources and money that support those systems in different nations. As it can be expected, a country’s wealth correlates with the amount of money spent on education. Countries that do not have basic amenities such as running water are unable to support robust education systems or, in many cases, any formal schooling at all. The result of this worldwide educational inequality is a social concern for many countries.
International differences in education systems are not solely a financial issue. The value placed on education, the amount of time devoted to it, and the distribution of education within a country also play a role in those differences. For example, students in China spend 260 days a year in school, which is the highest indicator in the world. The highest indicator in Europe has Germany with its 240 days, but most European countries land around 185 school days per year.
In the top-ranking countries, limited access to resources did not necessarily predict low performance. Analysts also noted what they described as “resilient students,” or those students who achieve at a higher level than one might expect given their social background. Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macao, Vietnam and Singapore have the highest level of resilient students. Meanwhile, in Europe this parameter is low again comparing with Asia. These insights suggest that the EU’s educational system may be on a descending path that can detrimentally affect the EU’s economy and its social landscape.
There is also the issue of educational distribution within a nation. In 2012, the results of a test called the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which is administered to fifteen-year-old students worldwide, were released. Those results showed that students in the EU had fallen behind in the rankings from Asian countries for science and math. Students at the top of the rankings were from Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, etc. It is worthy to mention Finland, who is the top in Europe and 6th in the world in reading, and 3rd in Europe and 12th in the world in mathematics connected with the above-mentioned assessment.
So, why is it that, among European countries especially, Finland has such excellent public education? Over the course of thirty years, the country has pulled itself from among the lowest rankings by the Organization of Economic Cooperation (OEDC) to first in 2012, and remains, as of 2014, in the top five. Contrary to the rigid curriculum and long hours demanded of students in South Korea and Singapore, Finnish education often seems paradoxical to outside observers because it appears to break a lot of the rules we take for granted. It is common for children to enter school at seven years old, and children will have more recess and fewer hours in school than other countries. Their homework load is light when compared to all other industrialized nations (nearly 300 fewer hours per year in elementary school). There are no gifted programs, almost no private schools, and no high-stakes national standardized tests. Prioritization is different in Finland. There is an emphasis on allocating resources for those who need them most, high standards (high standards for what?) and support for special needs students. The Finish government provides a free quality education to all, so universities are free of charge and give the opportunity of higher education to everyone. Over the past decade Finland has consistently performed among the top nations on the PISA. Finland’s school children didn’t always excel. Finland built its excellent, efficient, and equitable educational system in a few decades from scratch, and the concept guiding almost every educational reform has been equity. The Finnish paradox is that by focusing on the bigger picture for all, Finland has succeeded in fostering the individual potential of most every child.
Finnish education often seems paradoxical to outside observers because it appears to break a lot of the rules we take for granted.
Thus, analysts determined that the nations and city-states at the top of the rankings had several things in common. For one, they had well-established standards for education with clear goals for all students. They also recruited teachers from the top 5 to 10 percent of university graduates each year, which is not the case for most countries.
Every human being acquires the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary for life through education. As an individual in the society, a person has to think critically about various issues in life and make decisions about them that are free from bias and prejudices, superstitions and blind beliefs. All these qualities of head, hand and heart can be learnt through the process of education, which means that the higher the level of education, the higher the critical thinking of a nation.
Darling-Hammond, Linda. 2010. “What We Can Learn from Finland’s Successful School Reform.” NEA Today Magazine. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
Gross-Loh, Christine. 2014. “Finnish Education Chief: ‘We Created a School System Based on Equality.” The Atlantic. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
Pellissier, Hank. 2010. “High Test Scores, Higher Expectations, and Presidential Hype.” Great Schools. Retrieved January 17, 2012