Finland: a model for us all?
International comparative tests of student performances have become common around the world since 1958 when a group of scholars, including Martti Takala from Finland, developed an International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. Other large-scale international comparative tests were soon introduced: the PISA tests developed by the OECD for students aged 15 in reading, maths and science becoming the best known. The results of testing in 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2009, has led to continued anxieties on the part of governments who worry if their students go down in test scores, and educational policies in a number of countries have been inﬂ uenced by PISA results. Finland, outperforming all other countries in the ﬁ rst three studies, rapidly became the country where the educational tourists described above – government policy makers, educational practitioners, researchers – ﬂ ocked to examine how these good results were achieved, and to carry often simpliﬁ ed or controversial stories back to compare with their own education systems. The one indisputable result was that in Finland the lowest quintile of student achievers (lower attainers and special needs students) obtained higher scores than similar groups in any other countries. So, if Finland can prepare all young people, including lower attainers, to achieve higher levels, should Finland really become a model for other school systems? This chapter brieﬂ y discusses the development of Finnish education policy and PISA results, the arrangements for special and vocational education, the views of a small number of participants with whom discussion took place, and concludes that while Finland does indeed have much to teach other countries about a successful system which is egalitarian and does well for lower attainers, there are also similar problems to those experienced by other countries, especially in the ﬁ t between education and the labour market.1