Finland’s test scores drop, teachers’ union says solution is more funding

Finland, whose education system has been the envy of the world, has had a recent trend of poor student performance and widening achievement gaps.

The country’s latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test scores showed a decline in students’ performance in math, science, and reading. PISA every three years measures 15-year-olds’ ability to apply their reading, mathematics, and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges.

The latest Pisa results, published last month, show Finnish pupils’ performance declining in math, science and reading.

The 2018 Pisa survey results showed Finland has the widest gender gap in reading among the 79 countries that participated in the assessment. Another worrying trend was the growing role of family background in children’s’ educational performance. It has long been held that one advantage of basic education in Finland is its guarantee of equality regardless of families’ socioeconomic status.

Finnish educators have offered up solutions to reverse the decline, and as union reporter Mike Antonucci notes, one in particular stood out: more funding.

Jaakko Salo, a development manager with teachers’ union OAJ, “speculated that education funding cuts have had a lot to do with the most recent results. He raised the example of Helsinki, where a positive discrimination model saw the city devote more resources to schools with greater need for support. He noted that when schools have fewer resources they are unable to hire special needs teachers who can provide intensified support for pupils.”

Something that wasn’t emphasized during those years of Finnophilia was that the country spent less (as a percentage of GDP) on education than did the United States.

Can we now expect a wave of Finnish teachers to visit the U.S. to learn how we spend money?