Opinion
School & District Management Letter to the Editor

In Reform, Look to Finland, Not 21st-Century Skills

March 16, 2009 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Your article “Backers of ‘21st-Century Skills’ Take Flak” (March 4, 2009) cites Tony Wagner, a co-director of the Change Leadership Institute at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as saying that any attempt to improve the public schools must be accompanied by major changes in teacher education. He points to Finland’s reform of its education profession as an example of what to do. Mr. Wagner is right on, and we should pay heed to the academic requirements prospective Finnish teachers must meet.

As the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment makes clear, in all the best-performing countries, teachers are drawn from the top ranks of high school and college graduates. Finland, which came in first, recruits its teachers from the top 10 percent of its college graduates. In contrast, America recruits its teachers from the bottom third of entering college students.

Not only is college hard to get into in Finland because of demanding matriculation exams, but teacher-training programs also are hard to enter. Finland has developed a new selection process involving, among other things, several subject examinations as well as tests for communication skills. Moreover, all new core-subject teachers must have a master’s degree in their academic area, as well as a master’s degree in teaching (amounting to a three-year postbaccalaureate course of studies).

If the United States could transform entry into teacher-training programs and into the education profession itself along the lines that Finland has taken, we would not have to insert so-called 21st-century skills into state content standards, distorting and diluting them in the process. These skills would be naturally developed through the content knowledge and conceptual understanding that academically able and effective teachers aim for, regardless of subject area.

Sandra Stotsky

Professor of Education Reform

21st Century Chair in Teacher Quality

University of Arkansas

Fayetteville, Ark.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 18, 2009 edition of Education Week as In Reform, Look to Finland, Not 21st-Century Skills

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion ‘This Is Not What We Signed Up For’: A Principal’s Plea for More Support
School leaders are playing the role of health-care experts, social workers, mask enforcers, and more. It’s taking a serious toll.
Kristen St. Germain
3 min read
Illustration of a professional woman walking a tightrope.
Laura Baker/Education Week and uzenzen/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Educators Must Look to History When They Advocate for Changes
Educators and policymakers must be aware of the history of ideas when making changes in education, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Reconsidering Causes of Principal Burnout
The state and federal governments are asking us to implement policies that often go against our beliefs, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Teachers Want Their Administrators to Teach. Here's Why
Principals and other education administrators should even be required to spend time teaching in the classroom, according to teachers responding to an EdWeek query.
Hayley Hardison
4 min read
Teacher Principal 11122021 1310106400
E+/Getty