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Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? (Series on School Reform) (The Series on School Reform) Paperback – November 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


''The story of Finland's extraordinary educational reforms is one that should inform policymakers and educators around the world. No one tells this story more clearly and engagingly than Pasi Sahlberg. This book is a must read.'' --Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University

''This book is a wake-up call for the United States. Finland went from mediocre academic results to one of the top performers in the world. And they did it with unions, minimal testing, national collaboration, and elevating teaching to a high-status calling. This is the antidote to the NCLB paralysis.'' --Henry M. Levin, Teachers College, Columbia University

''A terrific synthesis by a native Finn, a teacher, a researcher, and a policy analyst all rolled up into one excellent writer. Pasi Sahlberg teaches us a great deal about what we need to know before engaging in national educational reforms.'' --David Berliner, Arizona State University

''Finland's remarkable educational story, so well told in this book by Pasi Sahlberg, is both informative and inspiring because it shows that with appropriate effort sustained over time, a country can make huge improvements for its young people, something that all countries aspire to do.'' --Ben Levin, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

''Pasi Sahlberg is the best education policy expert to share the Finnish experiences with the international community. This book confirms that he is not only a practitioner but also a visionary that we Finns need when searching for the solutions to our educational challenges.'' --Erkki Aho, director general (1973-1991), Finnish National Board of Education

''Pasi Sahlberg, as an insider, knows what has happened and as a researcher has an objective perspective on cause and effect relationships. This story makes sense to me.'' --Olli-Pekka Heinonen, director, Finnish Broadcasting Company and former minister of education

About the Author

Pasi Sahlberg, Director General, CIMO (Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation), Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture


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Product Details

  • Series: Series on School Reform
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Teachers College Press (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807752576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807752579
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Pasi Sahlberg is visiting professor at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is former Director General of CIMO (of the Ministry of Education and Culture) in Helsinki, Finland. He has experience in classroom teaching, training teachers and leaders, coaching schools to change and advising education policy-makers around the world. He is an international speaker and writer who has given more than 250 keynote speeches and published over 100 articles, chapters and books on educational change.

Pasi has lived and worked in England (King's College), the United States (World Bank in Washington DC) and Italy (European Training Foundation in Torino) and worked in 50 countries all around the world. He earned his PhD from the University of Jyväskylä (Finland) in 1996.

Pasi is a member of the Board of Directors of ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) and IASCE (International Association for the Study of Cooperation in education) in the U.S. and Adjunct Professor at the University of Helsinki and the University of Oulu.

Pasi's book "Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland?" (2011) won the 2013 Grawemeyer Award and he received the Upton Sinclair Award in 2011 and Annual Education Award 2012 in Finland.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

159 of 166 people found the following review helpful By Concerned Mom of Two on November 16, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Pasi Sahlberg's book is a must-read for all concerned parents, educators, administrators, government officials, union leaders, policy-makers, scholars, and philanthropists who are alarmed that our current market-driven/competitive/punitive model isn't working in the U.S. and that a radical change of course is required. It's amazing that Sahlberg shares the Finnish roadmap with the world in what can only be described as an act of altruism. As a concerned mother of two whose children are now enrolled in public schools after five years of unaffordable private schooling, this book is a godsend. It is a relief to learn about the existence of a more effective, humane, equitable, and cost-effective approach to public school education. Sahlberg's book offers hope to those of us who yearn for a better and more thoughtful system for our children both in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Finland is consistently ranked as one of the top performing countries in the international test known as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) that measures the knowledge and skills of 15-year olds in the subject areas of reading, math, and science. (In 2009, 65 developed countries participated in PISA.) According to Sahlberg, Finland has achieved this distinction since 2000 almost by accident and without intent. The driving force behind the redesign of the Finnish educational system in the 1980's and '90's was not to achieve high international test scores, but to provide an equitable education for all students.

It is astonishing to learn that Finnish teachers spend less hours per day teaching in classrooms than their U.S. counterparts. It seems counterintuitive to Americans and begs the question of how a country can achieve such outstanding results with less teaching?
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Niall Mackinnon on November 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Pasi Sahlberg has written a remarkable book showing how Finland established a high performing education system by adopting policies counter to that which came in across most Western education systems. He calls these the GERM - the Global Education Reform Movement. The features of the GERM are: standardizing teaching and learning with common criteria for measurement and data; increased focus on core subjects, particularly literacy and numeracy; teaching a prescribed curriculum; transfer of models of administration from the corporate world; high stakes accountability policies - control through testing, inspection, division between schools and an ethos of punishment (for educators).

Sahlberg shows how Finland took another route, yet which led to high performance, even by international comparators. Its success was achieved by the simple solution of framing the development of the system around dialogue based on professionalism, trust and responsibility. It fostered practice change through reflection over theories and models of education whilst other countries focused on performance management, standardized testing and inspection.

As so many education systems opted for public grading, `shaming and blaming' of schools and teachers (for what?), ratcheting up pressure, and a mantra of `excellence' proclaimed as a threat not an aim, Finland went another way looking for the conditions which promote success and set about involving school communities in the process. This book is an antidote to `Race to the Top' (USA) `Journey to Excellence' (Scotland) and `raising the bar to outstanding' (England) by a process which works by more humble means, yet would seem to work very well indeed. Read this book to find out how this success was achieved.
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60 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Observer on April 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
Diane Ravitch's The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education powerfully argued that much of what passes for school reform costs a lot, accomplishes little and frequently exacerbates the weaknesses of education in the US. Therefore, when she praises a book for pointing education reformers in the right direction, it made sense to me to take a careful look. [New York Review of Books, March 22, 2012]
On the surface the Finnish education miracle is startling. Sahlberg, a former teacher and an established education policy expert with both the Finnish Government and the OECD, argues that Finnish schools in three or four decades of focused, government inspired, equity driven, educator friendly education policy changes have moved from average to the top of international comparison charts. The Finns have done this while achieving demonstrably high levels of learning across all social groups and intellectual levels, with teachers and students spending dramatically less time in the classroom than other OECD countries and in particular the US, and without the widespread use of standardized tests. It is a remarkable accomplishment: No child has been left behind! Specifically,
"Finland's response to improving learning of all students since the early 1970s has relied on four strategic principles:
1. Guarantee equal opportunity to good public education for all.
2. Strengthen professionalism of and trust in teachers.
3. Steer educational change through enriched information about the process of schooling and smart assessment policies.
4. Facilitate network-based school improvement collaboration between schools and non-governmental associations and groups.
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