Thursday, September 01, 2011

finland's most honorable profession?

Teacher. This article is about the attempt by West Virginia Superintendent of Schools, Steven Paine, to reshape public education to take advantage of what we can learn from the success of schools in Finland. It is all about the dignity of and respect for the teaching profession:
The most important lesson the United States can take from Finland is the "preparation and development of high-quality teachers," Paine said.

This starts with honoring the profession, he said.

"In Finland, it is a tremendous honor to be a teacher, and teachers are afforded a status comparable to what doctors, lawyers and other highly regarded professionals enjoy in the U.S.," he said.

In addition, like other professions, teachers gain seniority and tenure primarily on the basis of training and experience, and teacher unions have a strong voice in shaping education policy -- all very controversial in the United States.

The profession is held in such high regard that competition to get teacher training is fierce. Nationally, only about 10% of some 7,000 applicants to primary school programs are accepted annually to Finnish teacher training programs, according to statistics from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.

And it's not about the money.

"In Finland, they do attract the very best and brightest into the profession, and it has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with the respect that is given to the profession," Paine said.

In fact, teachers in Finland are paid about the same as teachers in the U.S.
What a notion... treat someone with dignity and respect, trust them to do what they are trained to do, and let them arise to exceed your highest expectations. The great shame of our educational system and of our nation is that we do not. When I was at the University of Helsinki in 2008, I visited the wood shop where kindergarten teachers are trained in woodworking. You will not find that at any university in the US. But read the whole article. It is not just about teaching, and trust of teachers, but also about project based learning and integration of subjects, following the model we use at Clear Spring School.

Today I will be preparing for classes and making small boxes.

Make, fix and create...


  1. IMO, teaching is a lot like the ministry. (For that matter, preachers are supposed to be teachers as part of their job.)

    Preachers and teachers both deserve to be taken care of financially, but when their primary motivation is financial gain, things start to rapidly degenerate.

  2. Very few teachers get in the field solely for the financial rewards. You can make a much better living with a degree in something else.

    In Finland the top 30 percent of college graduates become teachers, here, the hardships of being a teacher, along with the strict control of curriculum, leading to lack of personal initiative, over reliance on standardized testing, and the poor status given to teachers means that we draw our teaching force from the bottom tier of college graduates, not necessarily from the best and brightest as they do in Finland.

    Some fault teachers for wanting more money, but that is never held against those in the financial services industry, or among CEOs of major American corporations.

    Recently on Fox news, teachers were mocked for not wanting to cut salaries and benefits to ease budgetary crises. On the other hand, pressures to lower salaries of the top corporate executives was disparaged by the same Fox talking heads.

    But then as suggested by the article, money is not the issue. Dignity and respect and sense of purpose tip the scales. Where teachers are respected, better education follows.

  3. Anonymous6:10 AM

    The chances of teachers in this country being treated like teachers in Finland or a number of other countries are pretty slim. There's a deep anti-intellectual streak running through the politics that shape schools, the curriculum and all the rest of the system.