Why Finland’s School System is superior to America’s


Photo courtesy of leverageedu.com

Madilyn Palosi, Article contributor

Ever since I was a little kid, I was not too fond of school. It was never something that I enjoyed doing. I always thought to myself, why do we only have two recesses? Why do I have hours of homework every night? None of my questions were ever answered.

I am a sophomore in high school, and I still don’t know why I have hours of homework most nights and why I have so many quizzes and tests every week. I’ve always thought school everywhere was equally as horrible and exhausting as mine in America. I was very wrong.

When I was in eighth grade, my principal decided to go to Finland to observe how their school system worked. He discovered some critical elements to Finland’s school system, such as more time to play outside in between classes, and decided to implement them in the next school year.

Finland’s school system is envied by many countries, including the United States. The PISA test is an international study launched by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in 1997, first administered in 2000, and now covers over 80 countries. Every three years, the PISA survey provides comparative data on 15-year-olds’ performance in reading, mathematics, and science. In addition, each cycle explores a distinct “innovative domain” such as Collaborative Problem Solving (PISA 2015) and Global Competence (PISA 2018).

Finland has consistently ranked within the top 15 countries that take it. In 2015, in the Math section, Finland ranked 13th, just behind the Netherlands. In Reading, they ranked 4th behind Canada, and in Science, they ranked 5th behind Chinese Taipei. On the other hand, the US placed barely above average in each of the categories and below average in Math. In Reading, the US ranked 24th behind Taiwan, and in Science, they placed 25th behind Norway. 

If these tests results don’t convince you, then I’ll inform you about their school system and some of the reasons they are considered to be the best. For one, they don’t have standardized tests. They believe a test where a student must fill in bubbles on a scantron full of pre-canned questions should not determine one’s knowledge on that subject. The only standardized test they have is voluntary and is taken by those in their senior year of high school.

Secondly, Finnish students can wake up later for school because their school day usually begins between 9 and 9:45 am and ends between 2 and 2:45 pm. They have longer classes and an even more extended break in between. The administrators also believe extracurricular activities are a huge time sink, and they would rather have their students relaxing in the morning and after school.

Third, Finnish students don’t have to stress as much as American students. They only have a few classes a day and are given 15-20 minute intervals throughout the day to get up, stretch, and get food. These intervals also apply to the teachers.

Lastly, Finnish students receive little to no homework after each school day. According to the OECD, students in Finland receive the least amount of homework and outside work out of all students in the world. Each night, they spend a total of 30 minutes working on homework and don’t use tutors, yet are outperforming many countries with toxic school-to-life balances, without the unneeded stress. They get all of their work done in class without the added pressures of excelling at that subject. Without a considerable amount of pressure on their grades, they can focus on developing as human beings. 

In conclusion, hopefully after reading this article, you can see how drastically our school system differs from Finland’s. I didn’t write this article to harp on America’s school system. I just wanted to enlighten students, teachers, and parents about how positive and successful Finland’s is and how if we can recognize the weaknesses in our system and seek improvement, we can excel the way Finland has.

I think I can speak for almost all American students, specifically high school students, when I say I don’t like how long our school days are and then come home to hours of homework. I often find myself very stressed during the week because of homework and projects, and the busy work I get.

I can only imagine if we implemented some of Finland’s policies, we would score better on tests, and we would be more motivated to learn because we have an administration that helps us succeed both inside and outside of the classroom.