Friday, February 29, 2008

Educational parallels

...can only go so far. In an interesting article (W1) today, Ellen Gamerman contrasts the Finnish educational method (which has several cool similarities to homeschooling) with the U.S. method. Here, according to the article, are components of the Finnish strategy that makes their children the world's brightest overall (at least by one standard, the PISA test):

  • "[A] relaxed, back-to-basics approach" - a hallmark (usually) of homeschooling.
  • This happens to include "no sports teams, marching bands or prom." What's that I've been hearing about the poor homeschooled kiddies having a lack of socializing opportunities? hm?
  • "Finnish educators believe they get better overall results by concentrating on weaker students rather than by pushing gifted students ahead of everyone else. The idea is that bright students can help average ones without harming their own progress." My family, at least, used this technique - the older teach the younger what Mom or Dad has taught; sometimes an astute younger sibling can teach something to an older one.
  • "[Physics] class starts when everyone quiets down. Teachers and students address each other by first names. About the only classroom rules are no cellphones, no iPods and no hats." No distractions. The "first names" part depends on the family; mine didn't.
  • "Finnish teachers pick books and customize lessons as they shape students to national standards." Or, with homeschooling, to the parents' standards. :-)
  • "One explanation for the Finns' success is their love of reading. Parents of newborns receive a government-paid gift pack that includes a picture book." I do take issue with the government handing out goodies--granted, the people of Finland have high taxes that pay for this sort of thing, but...where in the Constitution does it say that one of the government's jobs is to give people free stuff?
  • "Finnish students have little angstata -- or teen angst -- about getting into the best university, and no worries about paying for it. College is free." Again, a result of high taxes.
  • "Once school starts, the Finns are more self-reliant...young Finns do much more on their own. At the Ymmersta School in a nearby Helsinki suburb, some first-grade students trudge to school through a stand of evergreens in near darkness. At lunch, they pick out their own meals...There is no Internet filter in the school library. They can walk in their socks during class, but at home even the very young are expected to lace up their own skates or put on their own skis."
    That, I believe, is among the top three factors of my homeschooling experience that eased my transition to college.
  • Maybe this is a little too relaxed: "During a recent afternoon in one of [a teacher's] school's advanced math courses, a high-school boy fell asleep at his desk. The teacher didn't disturb him, instead calling on others."

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