Today, we will share with you the observations of an American Mathematics teacher about the Finnish education system, which is the most talked about in many dimensions in the world, after winning a Fulbright scholarship and going to Finland.

“I thought I’d come back from this experience with great innovative lessons and inspiration when I was working as a math teacher in the classroom and going to Finland on a Fulbright Research Scholarship. I hoped that I would gain great new ideas about how to teach the math curriculum, that by learning more math curriculum, more innovative teaching methods in my classes, I could engage my students in more thinking, talking and more mathematics.

When I arrived in Finland, I did not see big things in math classes that would improve innovative thinking. Students were no better at math or knew no more subjects. Moreover, the high school math class was significantly behind the curriculum compared to the classes I had previously experienced in Indiana.

Class structure and teaching in a mathematics classroom in Finland follows the basic method that mathematics teachers have followed for centuries: the teacher goes over homework, tells the lesson (some students listen, some do not listen), gives homework. I have had a chance to observe some excellent teachers, outstanding teachers, but I have seen even more inclusive and interactive teachers in middle school math teaching in America.

So, what’s the difference? If secondary school maths teaching is the same or sometimes worse as ours, why do our students fail when Finnish students succeed? It is not teaching that makes the difference. A good teacher is a good teacher and can be found both in Finland and in America. (This applies to bad teaching different) that are less tangible, more basic, the Finns are less numerous” they really believe in the principle, and this deep into the mindset and Finnish national education system the basic principle of the mantra has become.

Few Are Many!

The Finns believe in this and design their lives according to this motto. Their homes are no more spacious than they need, and here they live comfortably, do not consume more than they need, they live simply and modestly. Women wear little makeup, and men do not ride big, giant vehicles. Finns buy expensive but long-lasting clothes instead of buying cheap clothes. he really believes in the principle of” few are many” and they live that way.

On the contrary, in America, we believe in the principle of “much more” and we constantly want more in all aspects of our lives. We have become obsessed with everything new, bright and exciting, and we constantly want to renew them in our lives. Old out new in! the ”much more” way of thinking has taken over our entire lives, and this philosophy is also causing confusion in our educational system.

In our education system, we do not give a philosophy long enough to see if it works, we constantly try new methods, ideas and initiatives. We are always filling it with a lot more stuff without throwing old ideas on our plate. We believe that “more” is the answer to all our problems with education. We believe that everything will be solved with more lessons, with longer school days, with more homework, with more pressure, with more after-school tutoring, with more tests. This causes more exhausted teachers, more stressed students and more frustration.


Fewer Formal training= more options

In Finland, students start primary school at the age of seven. Yeah, he’s 7! Finland allows its children to be children, to learn by playing, to explore instead of being closed in the classroom. Are they falling behind in this situation? No! Children start school when they are ready to learn and focus. 9 years of compulsory education. 9. Everything is optional after class, and the 16-year-old chooses one of the 3 options below:

High school education: this education lasts for three years and prepares children for the University Entrance Exam, which will ensure their admission to the university. (In recent years, only 40% of students chose this education!)
Vocational Education: Vocational Education also lasts for 3 years, and in this program, students are directed to various professions, and at the same time, at the end of 3 years, they are also given the right to take the University Entrance Exam. However, after gaining their professional skills here, students usually prefer to start working life or go to Polytechnic University to develop their professional skills at a high level. (Only slightly less than 60% of students chose this education in recent years)

But wait, should everyone study math, economics or high chemistry? Should everyone be a college graduate? no, not everyone has to go to college! Interesting… what happens if we provide options to someone who wants to be a successful welder or electrical technician? What if we do not force our students, who know that their abilities are outside the world of formal academic education, to high school education that they find useless and boring for 3 years? What happens if we allow them to train and thrive in the professions, they are capable of and love?

What if we make these students feel valued and happy with the field they are in?

Starting a business life (less than 5% Choose this area)
Less Time At School= More Rest

Students usually start school between 09:00 and 09:30. In fact, Helsinki plans to pass a law so that the school start time is not before 09:00, because research shows that young people need quality sleep in the morning. School usually ends at 14:00 or 14:30. Some days start earlier and end earlier, or vice versa. The calendar of Finnish students can vary constantly, but usually consists of 3 or 4 lessons of 75 minutes and many breaks on the training day. This system allows both teacher and student to rest and be ready to learn/ teach.

Less Training Hours =More Planned Time

Teachers naturally have shorter working days. According to OECD data, Finnish teachers train 600 hours a year, while they do an average of 4 or fewer lessons per day. Also, students and teachers are not asked to wait at school if they do not have classes. This system gives Finnish teachers the time to think and plan for each lesson. This allows them to develop creative methods for teaching courses more effectively.

  1. Fewer teachers= more stability and care

Primary school students continue 6 years of their education with the same teacher. The same teacher deals with the care, nutrition and education of students in a class of 15-20 people, and thus the teacher individually dominates the learning technique, individual needs of each student. And this teacher knows where each of his students can go in their educational life. By ensuring that children progress and invest in their personal interests, they pave the way for children to succeed and achieve their goals.

This system is not only useful for children (they get continuity with this system, the individual attention and care they need), but also allows the teacher to understand the curriculum in a holistic and linear way. When the teacher is given the freedom to work peacefully with his students, he knows what they need to learn in the next step. They don’t have to go fast or slow to be ready for next year’s teacher.  He knows where his students are and what they are learning and is able to plan according to the needs of his students. I believe that this system is a big part of the success of the Finnish education system.

Fewer Admissions = More Teacher Confidence

Then the child is trained by the same teacher for 3 or six years. What if the boy falls for the Bad Teacher? Finland is working hard to make sure it does not have a “bad teacher.” Primary school teaching is the area that requires the most competition for education. Out of thousands of applications a year in Finland, only 10% can get admission for Primary School teaching. It’s not enough for a candidate to be the best and brightest primary school teacher, he also needs to pass a dozen interviews and a test that evaluates his individual characteristics. Not only do you have to be the most successful in your class, but you also must have a natural talent and teaching skills. Finland knows that teaching is something that cannot be gained by studying this skill is usually a talent and passion. Some have it some do not. Very few universities in Finland have teacher training programs, and these universities only accept students with teaching ability. For teachers who have completed their education with the highest GPA and teaching ability, it is mandatory to make a master’s degree and write a dissertation. This process also creates the infrastructure of relying too much on teachers. Families trust that their teachers are of high quality, educated and individually talented. They are not trying to undermine their judgment and authority.  I asked the math teacher we worked with how many e-mails he had received from families, he replied indifferently, “about five or six, “ and I said, “ I was getting more e-mails a day than that in America, “ and then again, “No, I meant five or six e-mails in a semester !” said.

And I ask again, what is it like to live in a society based on trust and respect?”