Thursday, May 01, 2008

What's Finland Doing Right?


An article in BBC News tells of the extraordinary success of Finland's academic establishment.

Based on tests comparing 15-year-old students in 2006, the rankings released by PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) showed the Scandinavian nation in the top five for reading and math, and in the number one slot for science achievement.

Coming up fast in Finland's rear view mirror are competitors from Asia such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea.

From the BBC News article:

The latest findings also show the extent of global competition in education - with the northern European countries now challenged by and overtaken by Asian rivals, including Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea.

South Korea has continued to strengthen its position - after a remarkable rise in achievement against international competitors.

In the 1960s, the OECD says South Korea's national wealth was similar to Afghanistan's.

But a sustained drive in education has seen it rise to the upper ranks in international education leagues - both in subject scores and in completion rates in secondary school.

As with Finland, there has been an emphasis in South Korea on education as a key to economic success and the "knowledge economy."

Where did the U.S. rank? In the middle of the "below average" range for mathematics, lagging behind Spain, Hungary, and Azerbaijan (a test administration error precluded a reading result for the U.S.).

A Washington Post article elaborates further on American students' poor performance on this important international assessment.

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