Finland Travel Log: It’s All About the Women

Excerpt from Travel log by Barnett Berry:

Below is the sixth and final in a series of posts I’m writing from Finland, as part of a trip with a delegation of U.S. education leaders. For a week, we’ve been immersing ourselves in Finland’s top-performing education system. 

[..] In America, taking care of the young has never generated much prestige for any occupational group.

This is not the case in Finland.

I learned from Raija Vahasalo, who chairs the Education and Culture Committee, that the Finnish government, a coalition of six political parties, has “quite a good consensus over how to improve our education system.”
MP Vahasalo is a conservative, not a social democrat (or other left-leaning Finnish party member), but she was far more trusting and respectful of Finnish teachers than most U.S. government representatives—from both political parties.

Currently, 28 of Finland’s MPs are educators, and as MP Vahasalo told us, “know how it is to work in schools.” As a result, she continued, “we know we have so many good teachers; they all have master’s degrees in education.”

In Finland, the respect for teaching and teachers is profound. It runs deep in its culture, but it is also rooted in the nation’s respect for women. This respect aligns with the nation’s intellectual, forward-looking leadership, and its search for consensus—not conflict. And Finland places emphasis on professional responsibility, not rigid accountability. As MP
Vahasalo reminded us, “Our teachers are good, not bad.”

In America, we have many women who know teaching and learning as well as Raija Vahasalo does in her country. We need to make sure these knowledgeable women are the people leading our country’s charge to professionalize teaching.

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