Finnish tango: the educative dream


Pasi Sahlberg "Finnish lessons"

“Finnish Lessons” by Pasi Sahlberg is an enlightening summer read for all those passionate about education. Pasi tells us a success story – how, in less than three decades, Finland built  a very successful education system – but above all he shares key thoughts regarding innovation in education.

The “Finnish way” or “fourth way” described by Sahlberg is not a naïve view of education but the result of a strong political vision that opposes the current models of education transformation known as GERM – for Global Education Reform Movement – characterised by increased competition and choice, standardisation of teaching and learning, test-based accountability and merit-based pay for teachers.

Why don’t we let teachers do what they do best, i.e. teach? A simple question that gets – unsurprisingly – simple answers. Finns, according to Pasi, are both humble and pragmatic. Changing education is therefore first and foremost about learning and teaching:

  • to learn well, teachers need first to teach well
  • to teach well, teachers need time and to focus on teaching
  • to learn well, students need to concentrate on what they learn and why they learn and not on the grades they will get
  • to learn well and teach well, the whole educative community needs to work together towards the same goal

Sahlberg criticises the fact that change could be introduced in the education system by “employing management concepts and principles borrowed from the business world in the school system”.

The Finnish fighting spirit in education is admirable, and the main reason why the Open Education Challenge will start its incubation process in Helsinki.  Each of the companies we have selected has demonstrated a capacity to transform the way we learn or teach in many different settings, and will directly create new jobs and growth opportunities in education in Europe. But this can only be done if they employ educative concepts and principles borrowed from countries with the most innovative school systems, starting with Finland.

Finland is the place for every education startup to remember that quality of education will be central for their future success in the markets they have chosen to address.

Pasi tells us that Finns love to dance tango. Let’s finish then with a tango because education can be a dream made true:

siguiendo el compás
que todo es distinto
si entrega su alma al ritmo del vals.”

El Vals Soñador by Oscar Rubens and Armando Pontier.

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