What Can Indiana Learn from Finland

Since I have returned, I have been asked whether I think we could match Finland’s success in Indiana. There are conditions contributing to Finland’s success that Indiana will probably never be able to duplicate (its homogeneous society and universal early child care). That being said, the Finns would love to have our talent for creativity and innovation, which is born of our diversity. I did come away with three concrete ideas that are applicable to Indiana.

• First, in the face of the current teacher shortage, rather than panic and lower standards for becoming a teacher, we should raise them.

• Second, we should recognize the great work teachers are doing and reward them for it. At the least, the public dialogue should be based on the actual reality of the many great teachers in Indiana’s classrooms rather than anecdotes to make political points.

• And third, even though it is a large part of the state’s budget, we should depoliticize education and trust the professionals who are actually working and studying the craft of teaching by giving them more of a voice, if not the majority voice.

The Finns did these three things in the 1970s, and we saw what happened by 2000. There is every reason to believe Indiana could do that, too.

While America will never be Finland, and Finland will never be America, it is always good to have models to compare and aspire to. To that end, SACS will be watching as Finnish teachers and professors begin the professional development process necessary to shift their system to this 21st century model. SACS will be able to learn lessons from their work as we begin to implement our school board’s new strategic plan. And we will be happy to share what we learn with anyone interested in this important work. Another great reference is www.EdLeader21.com.