Reflections on Finnish Lessons

These are my personal reflections after reading Pasi Sahlberg’s Finnish Lessons, created and cross-posted to discussions as part of my Educational Leadership coursework.

Pasi Sahlberg in Finnish Lessons focuses on giving a comprehensive description of the education system in Finland by providing a historical, political, and social look at factors that have supported the rise in student achievement since the 1970’s. In attempting to provide lessons for other countries, I feel the central message is summed up by the following quote, “educational excellence has been attained because Finland has chosen an alternative way in its educational reform, often almost in opposition to the global educational reform movement.” (Sahlberg, 2012, 149).

As I reflect on the reading, and think specifically about the lessons we can learn from Finland, my viewpoint is drawn to a big-picture perspective. The following are three lessons I think we should consider:

1. Sahlberg (2012) emphasizes the strong connections between educational, political and social policies as a key driver of success. We can learn a tremendous lesson by looking at education as not a separate issue, but in connection with greater review of political, health and weallness, and social policies.

2 Sahlberg (2012) repeatedly points out that the Finland has not created much innovation, but instead has relied on research from other countries like the US. From this, I feel that he is saying that American education systems already have many of the answers, we need to review and reflect on our own implementation to promote greater success.

3. While improvements in Finland have taken place over a relatively short period of time (20-30 years), many of the changes, other than “peruskoulu”, seem to be incremental. The accumulation of these incremental changes provide for the systematic transformation that has promoted success at a high level. I believe this is a lesson for the US in that leaders and policy makers should focus on the long-term, rather than the next best thing.

Connecting the latter thought to the need for “disruptive” innovation, I get the feeling we are looking for a single big change or event, like winning the lottery, that will forever change our educational system. I am not certain that we need a magic bullet, but instead like the thoughts of Sahlberg (2012) that “not yet another educational reform but renewal, a continuous systemic transformation of teaching and learning, step-by-step” (p. 168) will move American education forward.


About mpalmerston

Husband, parent, educator, and student
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