Why Finnish Children Score Highest

Finland must do something right! Kids consistently score at or near the top on the Program for International Students Assessment, better known as PISA.

The United States in contrast, out of the forty participating nations in 2003 scored:

18th place for Reading,
22nd for Science Literacy,
28th for Math and
29th for Problem Solving.
See comparisons between countries

My guess is that truly honoring and respecting the young child and its natural development along with focus on play and experiential learning are major reasons! If only those in charge of education in the United States would wisen up and follow in Finland's footsteps.

Instead here in Greeley the curriculum for preschool is being aligned with the demands of kindergarten. These young tykes are now also subjected to DIBELS! A teacher who had applied for a position said she could not go through with it;DIBELS after all can be extremely damaging to a child's self-esteem.

From The Finnish National Board of Education:

Pre-School Education in Finland

Pre-school education is intended for six-year-olds, who will start their compulsory education in the following year. Participation in pre-school education is voluntary, and it is provided in day care centres and in pre-school classes operating in connection with comprehensive schools. In the autumn of 2000, there were 11,000 pre-school pupils in comprehensive schools and 48,000 six-year-olds in day care centres. This accounts for 90 % of the entire age group. [ISCED 0]

The objective of pre-school education is to create a playing and learning environment offering inspiring activities and providing children with opportunities to develop holistically together with their peers. The aim is also to involve the children and their parents in the planning of pre-school education.

In Finland, pre-school education means the systematic education and instruction provided in a day care centre (kindergarten) or a comprehensive school in the year preceding the beginning of school. Consequently, the term 'pre-school education' lays emphasis on the preparation for school, as opposed to early childhood education in which children participate before pre-school education. Participation in pre-school education is voluntary. Day care centres charge a reasonable fee for instruction, depending on the parents' means.

In 2000, a core curriculum was drawn up for pre-school education. The general principles set forth in the core curriculum also emphasise the child's individuality and the significance of active learning and functioning as a group member. The core curriculum does not divide instruction into subjects or lessons, but it does include various subject fields and objectives. These subject fields are: language and interaction, mathematics, ethics and philosophy, environmental and natural studies, health, physical and motor development and art and culture.

Pre-school education is based on the child's own knowledge, skills and experiences. Its focus is on play and a positive outlook on life. The methods and activities in pre-school education are made to be as varied and versatile as possible. From the educational point of view, working methods that accustom children to teamwork are of the utmost importance. Another central consideration is to promote the child's own initiative and to emphasise its significance as the foundation for all activities.

Pre-school education does not have an official evaluation system, but children's development is keenly monitored. Special attention is paid to individual children's readiness for school attendance, i.e. the phase of their emotional, social and cognitive development.

Some 90 % of all six-year-olds participate in pre-school education. Pre-school education provided in comprehensive schools covers about 15 % of the age group. The majority of pre-school education is given in day care centres falling under the administrative field of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Pre-school education in comprehensive schools can be arranged in separate pre-school classes or in combined classes. The pre-school reform, which obligates each local authority to provide a pre-school place for all children entitled to pre-school education, came into force gradually as from 1 August 2000.

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