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Four reasons why Finnish schools are among the best in the world

While visiting Finland, our collaborator Marc-André Girard obtained answers to the question that many educational actors are asking themselves.

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The question was unavoidable and I could not help asking it to the director of the University Normal School in Savonlinna, Mr Mikko Ripatti. Although I did everything to avoid being complacent, he laughed when I asked him THE question: why are Finnish schools among the best in the world?

After resuming his seriousness, here is what he replied, without bothering to think too much:

First reason: Finnish society

According to Mr. Ripatti, democratic society is homogeneous, in the economic sense of the term. He asserts that there are few marked economic differences between the inhabitants and that there is very little poverty among the 5.5 million inhabitants. According to him, this has the effect of offering an environment more conducive to education, because it can become a social priority at the national level, unlike education in underprivileged areas where the priority remains to meet the physiological needs of children. .

Second reason: school management

School management is efficient and people-centered, Rippati says. Teachers and administrators are easily accessible, both for students and parents. Beyond this accessibility, the directors engage in pedagogical supervision activities, which allows them to ensure a certain animation in this regard. Moreover, they would be particularly on the lookout for new trends in education as well as research findings in the field.

In addition, according to what some teachers have told me, the management of Finnish schools would naturally be open to ideas from teachers and they would do their utmost to ensure that they are realized.

Third reason: the training of masters

According to the school principal, the initial teacher training is excellent. At first, not all candidates are accepted; in fact, only the best candidates are selected. From the outset, it is therefore necessary to know how to promote yourself and demonstrate good aptitudes for the profession in order to have the honor of being selected in Finnish faculties of education. We must not overlook the fact that candidates must hold a master's degree to obtain their teaching certificate. They therefore spend five years not only on university benches, but also in school.

In addition, once on duty, teachers have three mandatory professional development days per year during which they participate in various continuing education workshops of their choice.

Finally, it would seem that teachers naturally attach importance to their continuing education approach. Continuing education is therefore very strongly anchored in the professional mentality.

Fourth reason: professional autonomy

Finnish teachers enjoy great professional freedom. They can make choices of pedagogical approaches and tools in addition to those concerning the evaluation methods. In other words, it is a highly decentralized school system managed locally by municipal authorities.

Professional development is, as we have seen, strongly anchored in professional concerns, which has made it possible for Finnish teachers to easily integrate technologies or to employ new pedagogical approaches.

In addition, Mr Ripatti informally told me that in Finland the credibility and trust given to teachers is very high. In fact, there are three professions in Finland which enjoy the trust of the population and generate an impressive social capital (regardless of order): the military, the police and the teachers!

So there is no main reason why Finnish schools are among the best in the world. In fact, it is a combination of factors that is the basis of their success and international reputation.


This article is part of a series published by our author and collaborator Marc-André Girard, as part of his participation in the Laboratory of innovation and digital in education (LINE) at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis.

You can read all the articles in this series here.

About the Author

Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard holds a bachelor's degree in social studies education (1999), a master's degree in history education (2003), a master's degree in education management (2013) and a doctorate in education (2022). He specializes in school-based change management and educational leadership. He is also interested in the 21st century competencies to be developed in education. He is a principal in a public high school and gives conferences on educational leadership, pedagogical approaches, change in schools and the professionalization of teaching. He has participated in educational expeditions in France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Morocco. In September 2014, he published the book "Le changement en milieu scolaire québécois" with Éditions Reynald Goulet and, in 2019, he published a trilogy on the 21st century school with the same publisher. He is a frequent contributor to L'École branchée on educational issues. He is very involved in everything that surrounds the professional development of teachers and principals as well as the integration of ICT in education. In March 2016, he received a CHAPO award from AQUOPS for his overall involvement. He is a recipient of the Régent-Fortin 2022 scholarship awarded by ADERAE for the significant contribution of his doctoral studies to the development of practice and knowledge in educational administration.

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