Theme 2 – Why Education in Finland Works

Several American teachers visited schools in Finland and were amazed at how teachers were treated there. Take this tour with them and see if you would like to be a teacher or student in Finland.




Task A: Matching task

Task B: Comprehension Task

I. Decide if the following statements are true:

II. Listen to the clip and choose the correct answers:

Task C: Grammar Task

Video ©AFTunion (


Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you…

Randi Weingarten: We are really delighted to be here and to not only see the schools, but also ask a lot of questions about, you know, what the Finnish education system is like and how… If you spend three hours or so in a school as we did this morning, you saw real relationships and real respect between administrators and teachers. You also see really small enough class sizes, so that there’s a real differentiated instruction. So all the things that we say are important in terms of instruction for kids, not simply having a teacher in a classroom, not simply having a smartboard or books that wrap around services starting with day care facilities and early childhood.
Randi Weingarten: That pre-school is really a child-centred facility.
Investigator 1 (Female): Yes.
Randi Weingarten: You see the attention paid to the experiential learning.
Investigator 2 (Male): That’s right.
I1 (F): Yes.
Randi Weingarten: And that the buildings are retrofits for kids.
Dr. Pasi Sahlberg: Thanks to the OECD data. It shows that Finland is performing better than the average. Yeah? We have been passing everybody else. What did we do to make this possible? Our policy of teachers is again very different to many other countries. First of all, we insist that every teacher in Finnish school has to have master degree. All the Finnish teachers have to be treated like professionals. When people ask me that how do you know in Finland that your students are learning in the school. And I would say that ask the teachers, they know. Just like you ask a medical doctor if he or she thinks that the patients are doing well.
Teacher 1: Working as a teacher in Finland is really something nice. And when we get the appreciation for our work, that’s even better.
Teacher 2: Teachers are appreciated in this country.
Randi Weingarten: You feel it?
Teacher 2: Yeah. I do.
Teacher 3: Alexander? I think it’s a general atmosphere that teachers are valued and the profession is appreciated in our society. And we have a good education to become a teacher.
Randi Weingarten: Teachers’ professionalism means something. You see it in the school. You see that it is real. But what the teachers also talked about was the pride that the community has in its teaching force and you can see it in terms of the pride that the kids had in their teachers, as well as the confidence that the teachers had when you walked into their classrooms.
Teacher 4: So this is my main subject, psychology.
Teacher 3: That’s right. This works through different schools. This class and the school quite…
Randi Weingarten: One teacher in particular, was talking about a new textbook and had called the publishing company about it, and they were changing it based upon what her suggestions were. So that’s just blew me away because here she was talking as if this happens every day!
Teacher 5: Twenty lessons a week.
Randi Weingarten: Twenty lessons a week?
Teacher 5: Yeah. But they work another 20, preparing lessons and marking papers until er… it’s not only teaching. They have other duties as well.
Dr. Pasi Sahlberg: The number of teaching hours. There was almost a 50 percent difference between the teachers in Finland and in the United States. What are they doing when your teachers are sweating in the classrooms? They are working on their curriculum developments. They are working with parents, or consulting students or so.
Teacher 6: But if they are not working in their classrooms, they can also work in here and then there are some spaces…
Randi Weingarten: This is so different than in the United States where teachers actually have their own office space. They have their own lockers. They have computers here. They have phones here. There’s a professionalism about this that you just never see in er… for teachers in the United States.
Dr. Pasi Sahlberg: If you go to Finland schools to say is that Mathematics, Reading and Science are the most important subjects. They will kick you out because this is not the way we understand learning.
Randi Weingarten: You saw the integration in terms of content areas, whether it’ll be cooking, and art, and music, and industrial works, and calculus and literacy. And you saw the integration between technology, human interaction and textbooks. When we talk about how there is no one size fits all, you saw that clearly in this school that we saw today.
Dr. Pasi Sahlberg: This whole business of education is run by the educators, and that’s why the communication and dialogue within this community is very different.
Randi Weingarten: Really, really appreciate the time, thank you.
Randi Weingarten: What is so obvious about the education system in this country is that people are engaged in problem-solving, not in winning arguments. The notion that somebody is an obstacle is just irrelevant here. It’s not even a part of conversation. The conversation is always about how can we all together help children. They assume that teachers should be the centre of a child-centred education system. And they work to make sure that teachers have what they need to accomplish their task as educating a country.

Why Education in Finland Works (5’53”) -
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