10 reasons why Finland's education system is the best
No standardized tests, no private schools, no stress. Finland's education system is consistently ranked best in the world. Why isn't America copying it?
- Finland's intellectual and educational reforms have completely revolutionized their educational system.
- The Finnish system doesn't encourage cramming or standardized tests.
- Finland's common-sense practices and a holistic teaching environment strives for equity over excellence.
Time and time again, American students continually rank near the middle or bottom among industrialized nations when it comes to performance in math and science. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) which in conjunction with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) routinely releases data which shows that Americans are seriously lagging behind in a number of educational performance assessments.
Despite calls for education reform and a continual lackluster performance on the international scale, not a lot is being done or changing within the educational system. Many private and public schools run on the same antiquated systems and schedules that were once conducive to an agrarian society. The mechanization and rigid assembly-line methods we use today are spitting out ill-prepared worker clones, rudderless adults and an uninformed populace.
But no amount of pontificating will change what we already know. The American education system needs to be completely revamped – from the first grade to the Ph.D. It's going to take a lot more than a well-meaning celebrity project to do that…
Many people are familiar with the stereotype of the hard-working, rote memorization, myopic tunnel vision of Eastern Asian study and work ethics. Many of these countries, like China, Singapore, and Japan amongst others routinely rank in the number one spots in both math and science.
Some pundits point towards this model of exhaustive brain draining as something Americans should aspire to become. Work more! Study harder! Live less. The facts and figures don't lie – these countries are outperforming us, but there might be a better and healthier way to go about this.
Finland is the answer – a country rich in intellectual and educational reform has initiated over the years a number of novel and simple changes that have completely revolutionized their educational system. They outrank the United States and are gaining on Eastern Asian countries.
Are they cramming in dimly-lit rooms on robotic schedules? Nope. Stressing over standardized tests enacted by the government? No way. Finland is leading the way because of common-sense practices and a holistic teaching environment that strives for equity over excellence. Here are 10 reasons why Finland's education system is dominating America and the world stage.
No standardized testing
Staying in line with our print-minded sensibilities, standardized testing is the blanket way we test for subject comprehension. Filling in little bubbles on a scantron and answering pre-canned questions is somehow supposed to be a way to determine mastery or at least competence of a subject. What often happens is that students will learn to cram just to pass a test and teachers will be teaching with the sole purpose of students passing a test. Learning has been thrown out of the equation.
Finland has no standardized tests. Their only exception is something called the National Matriculation Exam, which is a voluntary test for students at the end of an upper-secondary school (equivalent to an American high school.) All children throughout Finland are graded on an individualized basis and grading system set by their teacher. Tracking overall progress is done by the Ministry of Education, which samples groups across different ranges of schools.
Accountability for teachers (not required)
A lot of the blame goes to the teachers and rightfully so sometimes. But in Finland, the bar is set so high for teachers, that there is often no reason to have a rigorous “grading" system for teachers. Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education and writer of Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Said that following about teachers' accountability:
"There's no word for accountability in Finnish… Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted."
All teachers are required to have a master's degree before entering the profession. Teaching programs are the most rigorous and selective professional schools in the entire country. If a teacher isn't performing well, it's the individual principal's responsibility to do something about it.
The concept of the pupil-teacher dynamic that was once the master to apprentice cannot be distilled down to a few bureaucratic checks and standardized testing measures. It needs to be dealt with on an individual basis.
Cooperation not competition
While most Americans and other countries see the educational system as one big Darwinian competition, the Finns see it differently. Sahlberg quotes a line from a writer named Samuli Paronen which says that:
“Real winners do not compete."
Ironically, this attitude has put them at the head of the international pack. Finland's educational system doesn't worry about artificial or arbitrary merit-based systems. There are no lists of top performing schools or teachers. It's not an environment of competition – instead, cooperation is the norm.
Make the basics a priority
Many school systems are so concerned with increasing test scores and comprehension in math and science, they tend to forget what constitutes a happy, harmonious and healthy student and learning environment. Many years ago, the Finnish school system was in need of some serious reforms.
The program that Finland put together focused on returning back to the basics. It wasn't about dominating with excellent marks or upping the ante. Instead, they looked to make the school environment a more equitable place.
Since the 1980s, Finnish educators have focused on making these basics a priority:
- Education should be an instrument to balance out social inequality.
- All students receive free school meals.
- Ease of access to health care.
- Psychological counseling
- Individualized guidance
Beginning with the individual in a collective environment of equality is Finland's way.
Starting school at an older age
Here the Finns again start by changing very minute details. Students start school when they are seven years old. They're given free reign in the developing childhood years to not be chained to compulsory education. It's simply just a way to let a kid be a kid.
There are only 9 years of compulsory school that Finnish children are required to attend. Everything past the ninth grade or at the age of 16 is optional.
Just from a psychological standpoint, this is a freeing ideal. Although it may anecdotal, many students really feel like they're stuck in a prison. Finland alleviates this forced ideal and instead opts to prepare its children for the real world.
Providing professional options past a traditional college degree
The current pipeline for education in America is incredibly stagnant and immutable. Children are stuck in the K-12 circuit jumping from teacher to teacher. Each grade a preparation for the next, all ending in the grand culmination of college, which then prepares you for the next grand thing on the conveyor belt. Many students don't need to go to college and get a worthless degree or flounder about trying to find purpose and incur massive debt.
Finland solves this dilemma by offering options that are equally advantageous for the student continuing their education. There is a lesser focused dichotomy of college-educated versus trade-school or working class. Both can be equally professional and fulfilling for a career.
In Finland, there is the Upper Secondary School which is a three-year program that prepares students for the Matriculation Test that determines their acceptance into a University. This is usually based off of specialties they've acquired during their time in “high-school"
Next, there is vocational education, which is a three-year program that trains students for various careers. They have the option to take the Matriculation test if they want to then apply to University.
Finns wake up later for less strenuous schooldays
Waking up early, catching a bus or ride, participating in morning and after school extracurriculars are huge time sinks for a student. Add to the fact that some classes start anywhere from 6am to 8am and you've got sleepy, uninspired adolescents on your hands.
Students in Finland usually start school anywhere from 9:00 – 9:45 AM. Research has shown that early start times are detrimental to students' well-being, health, and maturation. Finnish schools start the day later and usually end by 2:00 – 2:45 AM. They have longer class periods and much longer breaks in between. The overall system isn't there to ram and cram information to their students, but to create an environment of holistic learning.
Consistent instruction from the same teachers
There are fewer teachers and students in Finnish schools. You can't expect to teach an auditorium of invisible faces and breakthrough to them on an individual level. Students in Finland often have the same teacher for up to six years of their education. During this time, the teacher can take on the role of a mentor or even a family member. During those years, mutual trust and bonding are built so that both parties know and respect each other.
Different needs and learning styles vary on an individual basis. Finnish teachers can account for this because they've figured out the student's own idiosyncratic needs. They can accurately chart and care for their progress and help them reach their goals. There is no passing along to the next teacher because there isn't one.
A more relaxed atmosphere
There is a general trend in what Finland is doing with its schools. Less stress, less unneeded regimentation and more caring. Students usually only have a couple of classes a day. They have several times to eat their food, enjoy recreational activities and generally just relax. Spread throughout the day are 15 to 20-minute intervals where the kids can get up and stretch, grab some fresh air and decompress.
This type of environment is also needed by the teachers. Teacher rooms are set up all over Finnish schools, where they can lounge about and relax, prepare for the day or just simply socialize. Teachers are people too and need to be functional so they can operate at the best of their abilities.
Less homework and outside work required
According to the OECD, students in Finland have the least amount of outside work and homework than any other student in the world. They spend only half an hour a night working on stuff from school. Finnish students also don't have tutors. Yet they're outperforming cultures that have toxic school-to-life balances without the unneeded or unnecessary stress.
Finnish students are getting everything they need to get done in school without the added pressures that come with excelling at a subject. Without having to worry about grades and busy-work they are able to focus on the true task at hand – learning and growing as a human being.
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It's the first time scientists have discovered an animal that doesn't perform aerobic respiration.
- The animal is a tiny parasite called Henneguya salminicola.
- The parasite infects salmon and lives within the fish muscle, though scientists aren't quite sure how it breaks down nutrients for survival.
- The findings are published in the journal PNAS.
H. salminicola inside of a salmon
An evolutionary advantage<p>Losing that mitochondrial genome appears to have been a less-is-more type of advantage for the parasite.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Myxozoans have gone through outstanding morphological and genomic simplifications during their adaptation to parasitism from a free-living cnidarian ancestor," the authors wrote. "As a highly diverse group with >2,400 species, which inhabit marine, freshwater, and even terrestrial environments, evolutionary loss and simplification has clearly been a successful strategy for Myxozoa, which shows that less is more."</p><p>The researchers aren't quite sure how <em>H.</em> <em>salminicola </em>breaks down nutrients without oxygen. One possibility is that it absorbs molecules from its host. It's hard to tell, however, because the researchers analyzed dead parasites — they'd need to look at parasites living within the fish to get a better understanding of how the creatures operate.</p><p>The discovery highlights how much scientists still have to learn about the diversity of life on Earth. Atkinson told <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/world/first-animal-doesnt-breathe-oxygen-scn-trnd/index.html" target="_blank"><em>CNN</em></a> that he expects <em>H.</em> <em>salminicola </em>isn't the only animal that can survive without oxygen, or in even "weirder modes of existence." </p>
The search for alien life<p>One interesting implication of the discovery is what it means for the search for alien life. It's long been thought that, if aliens exist, they'd likely breathe oxygen. After all, it's the best element that we know of for producing large amounts of energy for metabolism, allowing us to "grow large, run and jump and think," as David Catling, a planetary scientist at the University of Washington, told <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucedorminey/2012/11/20/why-e-t-would-also-breathe-oxygen/#48fdfed63c55" target="_blank"><em>Forbes</em></a>. <br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Because of oxygen's chemical advantages and the history of complex life on earth is so intertwined with oxygen levels," he said. "I think E.T. would also breathe oxygen."</p><p>This is one reason why many think Earth-like exoplanets with atmospheres that likely contain oxygen would be good candidates for harboring alien life. But, in a small way, the newly discovered parasite gives reason to think that the search for alien life — and their life-supporting planets — might be far more complicated.</p>
Archaeology clues us in on the dangers of letting viruses hang around.
- A University of Otago researcher investigates the spread of disease in ancient Vietnam.
- The infectious disease, yaws, has been with us for thousands of years with no known cure.
- Using archaeology to investigate disease offers clues into modern-day pandemics.
History-Changing Archaeological Finds<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ed6ad05071e93f257aa0b73f4001c805"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/gydYHHfnLhE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>While we rightfully look toward infectious disease experts during times such as now, archaeologists also have plenty to offer. A <a href="http://journals.upress.ufl.edu/bioarchaeology/article/view/1173" target="_blank">new research article</a>, published in the journal, Bioarchaeology Journal, turns back the clock to ancient Vietnam. The findings offer important clues about why we need to eradicate COVID-19.</p><p>Lead author Melandri Vlok, a PhD student at the University of Otago in New Zealand (with support from researchers in Australia, Vietnam, Japan, and the UK), investigated a case of yaws that ran through the Neolithic archeological site of Mán Bạc in Northeast Vietnam. </p><p>Yaws remains a common infectious disease in at least 13 tropical countries, with up to a half-million infected each year. Hard skin lesions form on the victim's bodies; they can form painful ulcers. While lesions usually subside within six months, bone and joint pain and fatigue are common. Some cases last many years and result in permanent scars. On occasion, death follows a long battle. </p><p>Subsistence farmers in mainland China have long battled the environment. Finding the right soil and water sources for their crops has been a generational battle. Roughly 4,000 years ago, such farmers made their way into Mainland Southeast China (modern day Vietnam), where, as Vlok writes, "genetic admixture and social transition occurs between foragers and farmers." In 2018, Vlok traveled to Mán Bạc to study the remains of seven skeletons, which included two adults, two adolescents, and two children.</p><p>Her findings help give us perspective on today's proliferation of the coronavirus. As she <a href="https://www.otago.ac.nz/news/news/releases/otago744185.html" target="_blank">says</a>, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"This matters, because knowing more about this disease and its evolution, it changes how we understand the relationship people have with it. It helps us understand why it's so difficult to eradicate. If it's been with us thousands of years it has probably developed to fit very well with humans." </p>
My Son Sanctuary, Quang Nam, Vietnam.
Credit: Mrkela / Shutterstock<p>Yaws is not the only disease considered in the article. Tuberculosis, brucellosis, and cancers were also discussed. The goal of the research was to identify disease spread through cultures and the chronic problems left behind, sometimes for millennia. Vlok notes how temperature fluctuations in the Mán Bạc region affected a variety of diseases. Yaws appeared to have spread easily due to an abundance of water and vegetation, combined with increased population density—children are more likely to spread this disease.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Pre-industrialized agricultural communities have also been associated with increased incidence of yaws. The coastal region is also slightly warmer and more humid than inland northern Vietnam and therefore more conducive to the spread of yaws."</p><p>The Climate Clock is <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2020/09/21/climate-change-metronome-clock-nyc/" target="_blank">ticking down</a>. We're already experiencing the ravages of this global shift, and it's not going to get any easier if interventions are not immediately legislated. While no single science will help us wrap our heads around the immediate future, Vlok suggests factoring in archaeology. Past precedent matters.</p><p>Gazing back a few hundred generations offers important clues for the future—really, the present—that we must confront. A concerted effort by the World Health Organization in the 1950s couldn't eradicate yaws. Diseases that have an opportunity to hang around will exploit every advantage it can. The blasé attitude too many Americans currently hold about the novel coronavirus's dangers is going to have a reverberating effect through the generations. As Vlok concludes, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"This shows us what happens when we don't take action with these diseases. It's a lesson of what infectious diseases can do to a population if you let them spread widely. It highlights the need to intervene, because sometimes these diseases are so good at adapting to us, at spreading between us."</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Are you mentally exhausted? Here's how to tell (and what to do about it).
- Mental exhaustion is a symptom of long-term stress. It can affect physical well-being, causing a person to feel physically exhausted.
- There are some things you can do yourself to alleviate your mental strain, which will then eliminate some of the mental exhaustion you're feeling.
- Seeking medical assistance for mental exhaustion is common, with therapists working alongside patients to help develop healthy coping mechanisms and doctors assisting with treatments such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications where needed.
What is mental exhaustion?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQyODkzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTc4NTU3OX0.iBdbs1EPqupUid5hsvZGyfNiEM_lsMvZM7UHHq8Z41Q/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C188%2C0%2C97&height=700" id="9b597" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b02945182cfd16b4010fea2238310c05" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="illustratioon woman leaning over desk stressed and exhausted concept of mental exhaustion and burnout" />
Knowing the symptoms of mental exhaustion can help you understand when to seek help.
Credit: Vectorium on Shutterstock<p>According to <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/mentally-exhausted#symptoms" target="_blank">Medical News Today</a>, mental exhaustion can affect physical well-being, causing a person to feel physically exhausted.</p><p><strong>What are the symptoms of mental exhaustion? </strong></p><ul><li>Low emotional resilience</li><li>Feeling stressed or anxious</li><li>Cynicism or pessimism, feeling like nothing is going right</li><li>Apathy (a feeling of not caring)</li><li>Difficulty concentrating</li><li>Feelings of helplessness</li><li>Physical exhaustion or fatigue</li><li>Sleep problems (sleeping too much or too little)</li><li>Feelings of being overwhelmed</li><li>Low motivation</li><li>Feeling distracted or on edge</li><li>Difficulty with memory</li><li>Headaches</li><li>Drastic weight gain/loss</li><li>Changes in appetite</li><li>Depression/depressive symptoms</li><li>Suicidal ideation </li><li>Irritability </li></ul><p><strong>What is the difference between stress and mental exhaustion? </strong></p><p>Stress is something we all experience - it's the body's natural response to situations that are new, scary, worrisome, etc. The biological response is a surge of stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) that helps us react quickly to perceived threats or high-pressure situations. With stress, once the "threat" has been removed, your body will stop the surge of hormones and you should go back to your normal state. </p><p>Mental exhaustion, however, is a symptom of long-term stress. When you are continually dealing with things that activate your body's natural stress response, your cortisol and adrenaline levels remain high. Eventually, this begins to interfere with your body's normal functions (such as digestions, sleep, your immune system, etc.). </p><p><strong>What causes mental exhaustion? </strong></p><p>Mental exhaustion or "burn out" are terms that are often used to explain the feeling of being overworked or generally stressed about things relating to your work, but mental exhaustion can be caused by a long period of persistent stress in any areas of your life. It could be work, it could be your home life, or it could be a combination. </p><p>Mental exhaustion can be caused by high-pressure jobs, working long hours, being dissatisfied at work, being the caregiver for an ill loved one, living with a chronic illness, the sudden death of a loved one, poor work-life balance, lack of social support, or a number of other factors. </p><p><strong>How can I tell if I'm emotionally exhausted?</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-chronicles-infertility/201905/8-questions-check-if-youre-emotionally-exhausted" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Psychology Today</a> has an incredibly helpful "emotional exhaustion inventory" to check your status: </p><ol><li>I smile less frequently than I used to, even in situations I typically would find funny.</li><li>My senses seem dulled, so food tastes flat, music doesn't move me, back rubs give me no pleasure/release, and I reach for black or grey clothes.</li><li>I can't sleep. Either I can't fall asleep, stay asleep, or all I want to do is sleep. </li><li>Socializing is difficult. When I am with friends or family, I feel disconnected and have a hard time paying attention to what they say.</li><li>I get startled easily by voices, noises or movement. I feel jumpy and jittery. </li><li>I am more irritable than I used to be, especially in lines, online and on the phone. </li><li>My anxiety level is higher than usual, and crowds and traffic make me feel claustrophobic. </li><li>I cry more easily, particularly during movies, sad news reports, sentimental stories and even shows with happy endings.</li></ol><p>If any of these statements sound familiar, you could be dealing with mental/emotional exhaustion.</p>
How can you treat mental exhaustion?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQyODkzMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTM2NzMyM30.87ZoD3LF4QI42oZwslTSxhH1LV6LYYjeXsXXKIHvqUU/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C353%2C0%2C354&height=700" id="6e07c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="edca51bb754a009eaf4a32a819fdc856" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="therapy illustration" />
Seeking medical assistance for emotional exhaustion can help you get back on track.
Credit: Evellean on Shutterstock<p>How can mental exhaustion be treated? There are some things you can do yourself to alleviate your mental strain and thus eliminate some of the mental exhaustion you're feeling.</p><p><strong>Remove the stressors in your life. </strong></p><p>If you're overwhelmed with your tasks at work, consider asking for help or delegating some of your tasks to others, if possible. If you're feeling overwhelmed at home, consider enlisting the help of a babysitter or house cleaner to eliminate some of your stress. </p><p><strong>Keep a journal. </strong></p><p>Writing can be extremely therapeutic. Writing about things you are thankful for (especially at a time in your life where you are overwhelmed) can positively impact your mental health way more than you realize. <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-chronicles-infertility/201905/8-questions-check-if-youre-emotionally-exhausted" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Research</a> has showed that people who practice gratitude (and gratitude expression exercises) often have a higher sense of well-being, fewer symptoms of physical illness, reduced stress, and higher relationship satisfaction.</p><p><strong>Exercise regularly.</strong></p><p>While you may not have time to visit the gym, there are many ways you can incorporate a bit of exercise into your daily activities, such as taking the stairs more often than the elevator at work, waking up early to go for a walk/run or even doing some physical activity while watching television at the end of the day. </p><p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1469029210000117" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2010 study</a> of 533 Swiss police officers and emergency service corps found that exercise was associated with enhanced health and actually protected against stress-related health problems. The participants of this study also reported feeling better prepared to cope with the chronic stress of their jobs. </p><p><strong>Incorporate relaxation techniques into your daily routine. </strong></p><p>Meditation, according to a 2013 Bangkok study, lowers cortisol levels in the blood, which may then lower the risk of diseases associated with stress. If you're not into meditation, other forms of relaxation including yoga, deep breathing exercises, massage, aromatherapy, or tai chi may also be helpful. </p><p><strong>Adjust your sleeping patterns. </strong></p><p>Sleep is essential for your emotional well-being. <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-exhaustion#treatment-and-coping" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">HealthLine</a> suggests developing a bedtime routine and sticking to it. It can also be particularly helpful if this routine occurs at roughly the same time every evening. This can be doing some light reading for a few minutes before bed at the same time every night, for example. </p><p><strong>Seek medical assistance from a doctor and/or therapist. </strong></p><p>Mental exhaustion is an incredibly real and difficult thing to cope with, and seeking medical treatment for it could be one of the best choices you make. A therapist, for example, can provide you with the tools you need to cope with daily stressors. A doctor can talk to you about your symptoms and potentially prescribe medicines (such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications) if they feel it may be helpful. </p>
People remember when governments lie to them and it lowers their satisfaction in government officials.