Finland Teacher Tales Pt. 4: The Viking School

I keep hearing how great the Finnish school system is.

Is it though?

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” ~ Carl Sagan

What's it like in a Norwegian school?

I think many Australians would be impressed/intrigued with the way Norway does school differently. During my visit to Rustad School in Ás (outside of Oslo) I learned that

• Children don't commence formal schooling until after they turn 6
• Most primary students start lessons at around 8:15am and are usually finished for the day by 1:15pm
• Even if teachers have a two-hour professional learning session after school they’re still heading home by 3:30 pm. (View the photo of me under the school clock and turn green with envy!)
• Free milk, juice and fruit are available to all students!
• There are no school uniforms
• Students refer to their teacher by their first name
• Norwegian teachers don't seem to be as stressed or in-a-rush like Australian teachers.

All of this, to an Australian politician, would seem a bit too casual. Surely Norway's teachers and students "must try harder". But if you look at PISA's league table in yesterday's post you'll see that Norway still outpoints Australia in Reading and Maths.

Some politicians think that for Australia to 'catch up' to other OECD nations the solution is to start schooling our children even earlier. This is about as logical (and evidence-based) as 'let's bring back free milk in schools' to improve our PISA scores. 

I think we should be looking for key factors in better-performing countries like Norway and Finland. What are they doing that we're not doing that could make a difference in our system? What methods and practices could be applied in Australia to 'lift standards'. 

James Phelps

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