For as long as I’ve been a teacher, both in Australia and the UK, the Finnish system of education has long been held up as the ‘gold standard’ of what education should look like. Especially in the UK, but more recently in Australia, a lot of teachers, educators and journalists are insisting that there are lessons to be learnt from Finland, and we should be heading in this direction, rather than slavishly copying the US and the UK, especially when
One of the most common comments is that Finland has no inspections or performance reviews of teachers. That is true – instead, teachers are trusted members of the community. All of them hold, at the very least, a Masters degree. They have been through at least 5 years of university, and every single one of them is in the top 10% of their cohort. Let’s say that again: 9 out of every 10 people who apply to be a teacher don’t make it into the program.
Now, I don’t really think that teachers should undergo performance reviews, but equally, I don’t think every teacher in Australia is in the top 10% of their cohort. In fact, sometimes I wonder if they are in the top 50% – don’t get me wrong, there are some incredibly brilliant and talented staff at my school and every other school I’ve worked at, but there is a huge disparity in consistency. Until the quality across the whole spectrum increases, then there is little point crying out to remove inspections and performance reviews.
Secondly, let’s consider how the rest of society views teachers. In Finland, a teacher is the most desirable profession for your spouse. In Australia, teachers are regularly accused of working part time, taking it easy and being bumbling fools – all in the same breath as people saying that they ‘could never do that job.’ Again, before we start insisting on adopting Finnish practices, perhaps it is time we considered how society can change and demonstrate that it actually views education as an important part of that society.
And don’t get me started on properly funding education…