The challenge for equity and excellence: Evidence for future successful action in bilingual Finland
Published inTutkimusselosteita / Koulutuksen tutkimuslaitos
In 2013, the authors prepared a report on educational excellence and equity in Finland based on PISA 2009 data and asked the question “Could Finland achieve both excellence and equality goals in the coming decade? Five years later, this report re-examines the challenge faced by Finland in light of recent PISA results. The Finnish school system, both the Finnish and Swedish speaking components, have consistently ranked at the top of the list of OECD countries. However, Finland’s performance has been dropping compared to previous years, while it failed to keep pace with performance improvements in other countries. Simply working harder along the same path will no longer work. Therefore, this report examines of evidence from PISA 2015 in context, to provide some insights for successful action by those involved in education in order to slow and eventually reverse the decline in student performance. The context in which Finland’s comprehensive schooling operates has changed: the numbers of students of school age are declining; there are more foreign language speakers than Swedish speakers in the population; and there have been Swedish school closures and amalgamations. There have been positive changes, too, such as the pioneering new curriculum. Suggestions are made for strategic action arising from analyses of PISA 2000 to 2015. A series of analyses on student performance over PISA cycles since 2000 in science, reading and mathematics show that there has been a decreasing gap between the average performance of students in Finnish speaking schools and students in Swedish speaking schools. The way this reduction was achieved is not sustainable because students in Finnish speaking schools declined in their performance and students in Swedish speaking schools who had a lower average to start with did not improve much. Thus, increased equality was gained at the expense of excellence. In general, science was the domain with the best performance and Swedish speaking students performed better in mathematics while Finnish speaking students had a higher average in reading in PISA 2015. It is time for Finland to compare performance with top performers wherever they may be and not just among OECD countries. In its heyday, Finland had scores that were similar to those of the top performer Singapore in 2015 and it should be able to achieve those scores again. Analyses of high and low performers, boys and girls and their social background also showed areas where steps can be taken to reduce risk of low scores, to respond early to low performance through monitoring and to provide both opportunities for academic and personal development. Suggestions were made for Finland to work at improving average scores all three domains to achieve higher average scores with less difference between students and schools, particularly through individualized teaching and planning for effective use of additional resources when needed. There were positive signs that both Finnish and Swedish speaking students continue to learn into young adulthood after their comprehensive schooling. The importance of coordinated approaches involving the Ministry of education, municipalities, schools, teachers and parents were highlighted for optimum results. Both excellence and equity should be the goals of education in the coming decade without sacrificing one for the other. ...
PublisherUniversity of Jyväskylä, Finnish Institute for Educational Research
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- Tutkimusselosteita 
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Equity and excellence : evidence for policy formulation to reduce the difference in PISA performance between Swedish speaking and Finnish speaking students in Finland Brink, Satya; Nissinen, Kari; Vettenranta, Jouni (University of Jyväskylä, Finnish Institute for Educational Research, 2013)
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