PISA tourists swarming in Finnish schools

Finland has ranked in top positions in all PISA assessments this millennium. The assessments, made every three years, test the skills of 15-year old pupils in reading, maths and the natural sciences.

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Well-trained teachers, the atmosphere of schools, short lessons and schooldays and an appreciation of arts subjects have awoken international interest. PISA tourists would like to know how to win in learning comparisons. Some of them have come out of pure curiosity, some because of their interest as researchers, and others have come to spy.

The differences between schools are small, the smallest in the OECD countries. "We don't have schools for very talented pupils, but our schools give an opportunity both to talented students and those who could easily be left on the margins," says Patrik Scheinin, Professor of Educational Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Behavioural Sciences.

Teaching methods favoured in the schools of talented children elsewhere in the world are a part of everyday work in Finnish schools. Camp schools and the application of learned information are integral in a normal curriculum.

In Finland, the work of teachers is appreciated. Children know that schooling cannot be successful with only football skills.

The analysis of PISA results reveal that the skills of immigrant children are at a good level in Finland. They scored on average 50 more PISA points than immigrants in OECD countries.

Still, Scheinin considers the learning research to be difficult. How can you set the questions on learning content in such a way that they are fair from the point of view of all 57 participant countries?

"The good thing in the comparison is that the point of view towards the school is taken from the perspective of different cultures. The PISA research is tested in advance in different countries so as to balance exercises which favour certain cultures," Scheinin explains. PISA concentrates on skills and attitudes that help later in upper secondary studies.

Additional information from the PISA pages of the University of Helsinki

Text: Susanna Saxell
Photo: Veikko Somerpuro

Translation: AAC Noodi Oy

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