Damn those Finns!

Finland is a country that is frequently chosen as the healthiest place in the world to live by a variety of organizations. They jealously protect their air and water quality. Many of their health indictors are among the best in the world. Though they have their own language, don't worry if you travel there as over 50 percent speak English. As if those superlatives were not enough, now their children are dominating international academic performance tests.

Schooling in Finland looks very different from schooling in America. In Finland, students do not begin school until the age of seven. The average student rarely gets more than a half hour of homework. There are no honor societies, no valedictorians, no school uniforms and no special classes for the gifted. Teachers and students address each other by their first names.

While many American parents hover over their children, Finnish children are expected to be more independent. Seven year old students trudge to school in the dark, pick out their own lunch, which are free, and carry their trays to their tables. There is no internet filter at the school library.

Finnish students like rap music, spend lots of time on the internet and express their rebellion with piercings and blue hair just like their American counterparts. However, by the time these students reach ninth grade, the Finish students will be way ahead in Math, Science and Reading.

Tests that were administered to 15 year olds from 57 countries found that Finland's combined scores for Math, Science and Reading were near the top and American students' were far behind. Finland's powerhouse performance has gained international attention and educational representatives from 50 countries have studied Finland's educational approach.

In the classroom, teachers don't push gifted students ahead of everyone else. Instead, students that get the subject quicker assist students that don't get it so quickly. Finnish educators believe that helping weaker students first achieves better results. Brighter students assist average ones without harming their own progress.

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