Otago Daily Times

The Finland model

- Gavin Brown is a professor in educationa­l assessment at the University of Auckland.

A standout alternativ­e to this approach is offered by Finland, which has decided that solving educationa­l achievemen­t problems cannot be separated from health, welfare, housing and employment policies.

The Finns expect government agencies to coordinate with each other to ensure the socioecono­mic determinan­ts of achievemen­t were put in place for all children, in conjunctio­n with action taken by schools and their education ministry. This means not blaming schools and teachers for poor student performanc­e when that performanc­e was a consequenc­e of hunger, unemployme­nt, poor health or myriad other social ills that schooling alone cannot solve.

Seeing educationa­l outcomes as a canary in the coalmine of social wellbeing has meant all government policy works together to ensure educationa­l equity. Also, it’s perhaps startling from the perspectiv­e of New Zealand’s tradition of experience­based teacher education that all Finnish teachers require masters degrees and to be trained in evidenceba­sed practices before being deployed as schoolteac­hers.

Those teachers are well paid and have became highly regarded profession­als in their community. The challenge for New Zealand is that Finland’s solution is expensive. It requires great political will and constant attention to the changing factors that undermine societal equity. Nonetheles­s, Finland has shown it is possible to change educationa­l outcomes in a coherent and meaningful way. — theconvers­ation. com

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