Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What's Finland doing right?

Imagine a place where teachers are so highly paid and respected that top students must compete for spots in schools of education,  where an  "accountability movement"  would seem laughable because everyone expects teachers to be doing good things for their students.

That's what N.C. education,  business and political leaders saw when they visited Finland this fall.  It's no secret that Finland is widely viewed as one of the best countries for public education;  that's why the 31-person delegation made the trip in September.  I'm just getting caught up on some of their reports,  and it's worth reading the blogs filed by Tony Habit of the N.C. New Schools Project in Raleigh and this report from N.C. Board of Education member John Tate of Charlotte.

Both men note the long-term dedication the people of Finland have shown to improving education,  as a matter of economic survival and commitment to equal opportunity.

"Finland’s consensus model stands in stark contrast to the United States,"  Habit wrote . "If policies for education that are central to the future of the nation change with each election cycle,  as they seem to do in North Carolina and the United States,  what chance do we have to achieve and sustain a world-class educational system?"

Tate sounds a similar theme:  "This culture of learning,  this willingness to invest,  this pride & trust didn’t just happen overnight,  but rather as a result of a sustained stay-the-course mentality that survived both political & economic change  —  in this case over 40 years.  How do we effect such stick-to-it-iveness?  Where is the common vision to which we as a state bind together through time for the benefit of future generations?"

In case you're wondering whether the taxpayers of North Carolina sent this crew overseas,  the answer is no.  The Public School Forum of NC organized the trip,  along with the UNC Center for International Understanding.   Forum President Jo Ann Norris says the Burroughs Wellcome Fund paid for the official delegates,  while various other privately-funded groups and businesses picked up the tab for their own travelers.

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