In teachers they trust

TODAY Special Report: Finland's Education System
In Finland, there are no national exams until the age of 18. Private tuition is also unheard of. Yet, Finnish students frequently excel in international tests. TODAY Senior Reporter Ng Jing Yng spoke to Finnish educators about the success of their education system.
Every Finnish school is a good school, because every teacher is highly-trained and qualified. In a two-part special report, we look at the secrets of Finland’s education model.
Published: 3:59 AM, March 4, 2013
Updated: 1:56 PM, October 22, 2013
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Schools take in students of all varying abilities, including those with learning disabilities, under one roof. The curious result is that, the differences between its weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to a Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) survey.

School leaders across Finland tell TODAY the same thing: “We trust our teachers”.

There are no national examinations in the first nine years of Finnish formal schooling, and schools and teachers are pretty much left on their own to educate their charges.

As Ms Armi Mikkola, counsellor of education at the Ministry of Education and Culture put it: “The administration is for support and not for inspection … Trust is part of Finnish society, it is a culture.”

Nevertheless, “with trust, there are some risks”, admitted Professor Jouni Valijarvi, Director of the Finnish Institute for Educational Research.

To mitigate risks of having underperforming teachers in schools, a stringent teacher selection process and rigorous teacher training is integral to the system, he said. “It is very important that we can say all schools are good schools,” added Prof Valijarvi. “Because in every school, we’ve highly-trained and qualified teachers”.


Yearly, 7,000 teaching aspirants apply to be class teachers (teaching the equivalent of Primary 1 to 6). Typically, there are just 800 spots available.

To teach secondary and upper secondary students (Secondary 1 to Junior College equivalent), 6,000 vie for 1,500 subject teacher positions yearly. Universities cherry-pick from this large pool of applicants, with two different selection processes for each category.

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