Education Letter to the Editor

Finland vs. United States: An Unequal Comparison

March 09, 2010 1 min read

To the Editor:

Walt Gardner’s delightful blog post Are Quality and Quantity Possible in Teacher Recruitment?” (Feb. 26, 2010) points out that Finland, highest in international comparisons of student achievement, is a small, largely homogeneous nation that focuses much attention on education. Critics of American schools often point to Finnish achievement as a model, and ask that whatever the Finns do be replicated in the United States.

Mr. Gardner is right to note that Finnish homogeneity is not just linguistic and ethnic, but also socioeconomic. Finland’s economy tilts far more to the socialist than Americans would ever support, and the country does not have superrich or superpoor citizens in any major degree. Without the economic gaps that lead to such different experiences in learning outside of school, as we see here, there is little achievement gap in Finnish schools.

American politicians who criticize our education system of course blame teachers for achievement gaps. If they didn’t, they would have to deal with the huge and growing income inequities in this country.

James Hill

College of Education

California State University, San Bernardino

San Bernardino, Calif.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 10, 2010 edition of Education Week as Finland vs. United States: An Unequal Comparison