High standards means less low-level standards

Already some time ago Washington post wrote about the Finnish educational system and Finland in general. It’s a worth of reading for those interested in different “system design” of education and learning [Footnote 1].

The article explains how the whole Finnish educational system – from pre-school to universities – is public and accessible for all. There are no fees in any level. The system is funded by progressive taxes.

The article praises how teachers – from pre-school to universities – are highly educated and appreciated in the Finnish society. Teachers also hold a lot of freedom to organise their own work. The article points out that in the early 1990’s “teachers and headmasters were given the authority to write curricula, choose textbooks and allocate resources. Apart from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests and final exams at the end of high school, Finnish kids take no standardized tests..”

The logic behind this is that when teachers and headmasters hold high standards there is less need for low-level standards. Let me explain.

In Finland, we trust our teachers’ skills, knowledge and interpretation on what makes a good school and learning environment, good study material, meaningful learning experience and a good student. We know that our teachers are reliable and fair. We also know that corruption is rare and not tolerated. All in all we know that teachers in our schools are of high standard.

Some people have told me that e-learning standards, such as LOM metadata, are just like standards used in construction industry: they make the construction engineers work easier and more efficient. [Footnote 2] Because there are standards, all the engineer need to do is to order the right walls, floors, tops, stairs, windows and doors from the suppliers and assemble houses out of them. Sounds good.

On the other hand what about if we could live in an environment that is all designed by architects? They also need standards, but they also hold the final decisions on how they will use them, not to use them at all and when to break them.

I think teachers in Finland are more architects than construction engineers of learning.

Footnote 1: The Washington post’s article is based on two journalists’ blogging trip to Finland earlier this summer. From their blog you get richer picture of the country. It’s not a paradise.

Footnote 2: I have a lot of respect on construction engineers. They do very important work, but most of them should not design spaces where people are living in, but rather do the job they are trained for.

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