In recent posts I’ve argued that while we can and should learn a great deal from international comparisons of educational practices and outcomes, we should not simply adopt the practices of other countries, but should put them (and home-grown solutions) to the test in our country. Last week, as part of Education Week’s Quality Counts, there was an article by Pasi Sahlberg, of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. Finland, of course, has become the poster child for those who point abroad for inspiration, because of its top rankings on international tests, such as PISA and TIMSS.
Sahlberg explains that Finland’s success is no miracle, but is based on studying the policies and practices of other countries, trying them out in Finland, and keeping those that work. These include many innovations from the U.S.; in fact, he singles out cooperative learning as a positive example.
Finland and other countries whose students excel on international tests pay close attention to the U.S. and other countries’ research and innovations. In fact, I think countries other than the U.S. pay a great deal more attention to research and examples from beyond their borders than we do in the U.S. The willingness to find out what works, regardless of its source, and then try it out at home is exactly what I was arguing for. This is a Finnish policy I can absolutely endorse – use what works!