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There’s No Homework in Finland

Which countries have the best education system and why?

Finland -

Nordic education is often held up as a shining example of best practices. Students are given a great deal of freedom, can pursue interests, and teachers are held up as shining examples to be emulated. And this is a good system in a lot of ways: So long as your students buy-in, are typical, and non-problematic. The Finnish system is excellent for a largely homogenous country in a relatively small area with a similar culture that values education. In short: the Finnish system is great for Finns. The Finnish system does not shine nearly so well for students who are unusual, largely because they don’t have a lot of them. Special needs kids tend, comparatively to other countries, to be underserved. They operate in largely the same ways as other kids, but that won’t work so well for them. Rebellious/education-rejecting students are similarly very poorly handled. Finland’s “bright side” of its education is indeed a shining star of awesome, but their underside is just as dirty as anywhere else. Overall, though, Finland’s practices are definitely best for Finland. Top marks.

Chinese -

The Chinese education system tends to take a lot of heat in the Western world, but much of it is undeserved. Here’s a quick reminder: China has a population of 1.3 BILLION people. Dirty math puts that at quadruple the United States and two hundred and sixty times the population of Finland.

Now tell me, Mr.American-Insulter-of-Chinese-Systems, exactly what non-standardized approach you’re going to use to individualize the education of the children of ONE. BILLION. PEOPLE.

Of course China leans heavily on standardization! You have this many children, that many college seats, and you have to compare these bogglingly large numbers of children from across this huge country: you’re going to have to have some standard metrics. China recognizes the value of teaching children to think (contrary to Western media sentiments) and does a decent job of teaching them to think in the Chinese style. China puts tremendous value on testing and the value of tests, and so they shine mightily in that vein. This system, which would be terrible in Finland and is so maligned in the United States, is exactly what China needs. They’re still tinkering with it — and so they should — but their system makes sense for them. Their practices are the best for the needs of the Chinese. Top marks.

United States

The United States model is either brilliant or horrible, depending on which parts you look at, and who’s talking about it.

American education loves it some tech these days. Yes, yes it does.

In America, a great war is being fought over differentiation vs. standardization, great, country-spanning curriculums and town-specific lesson plans. In essence, we’re caught between Finland and China, and we’re trying to sample the best of both. At the same time, though, there are a few things in which America positively shines in education, and we frequently forget to celebrate these things:

The United States positively kicks ass at teaching atypical children.

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- У меня к вам предложение. - Ein Vorschlag? - У немца перехватило дыхание.  - Предложение. - Да. Я могу прямо сейчас отвести вас в участок… - Беккер выразительно замолчал и прищелкнул пальцами.

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