Pasi Sahlberg speaks and writes about educational change, development and cooperation by sharing his experiences with the Finnish model of education. Here are a few paradoxes that Sahlberg talks about.
Paradox #1: Teach Less, Learn More
According to PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), Finland consistantly out performs most of the world in literacy, math and science. And yet, if you look at the number of teaching hours per year in lower secondary education, you will see that in 2007, Finland's teachers taught just under 600 hours while the United States taught over 1000 hours.
Paradox # 2: Test Less, Learn Better
When looking at the OECD data below, you can see that only Finland has actually shown improvement in mathematics from 2000-2006. The point here isn't necessarily to ask what Finland did to achieve this improvement; rather, it may be more important to ask what Finland didn't do that the other countries did. Sahlberg explains that Finland did not subscribe to the test-based accountability policies that so many other countries like the United States and Canada. In fact, the Finnish do not even have a word for accountability - so they use the term responsibility instead.
Paradox #3: "The better a high school graduate is, the more likely she will become a teacher"
In Finland, the teaching profession is revered as an admirable and trusted profession. Teachers are treated as autonomous professionals who have a shared responsibility in teaching Finland's youth. This atmosphere was created by rethinking educational policies and reform. The chart below shows how Finland and Germany have differed in their approach to reform.
Here is Pasi Sahlberg slide show from his presentation and his website.
Each of these paradoxes are quite counter-intuitive, but people in the know - that is people who are involved in education - can see how true each of these paradoxes are. This is exactly why education reform will never be successful as long as it is being driven by those furthest from the classroom. We have to trust teachers to drive reform. The Alberta Teachers' Association in Alberta is a great example of how teachers can advocate for teachers and students to grow a progressive education system.