Latest PISA tests have alarmed Finnish authorities. Finland is no longer at the very peak of the test results. A number of Asian countries have surpassed us in their test results. Typically this issue is seen as some sort of sports event by the Finnish media, but it is a much more complex and important, than that.

Little Finland has done very well for decades in the international testing. How is this possible? Finnish kids are exactly the same as any other kids around the globe. Infact, they spend less time in school, than most of their first world counterparts. Finnish kids are not particularly trained for any tests. The school system has been seen to be so effective mainly because of the high standards of teachers. A Finnish teacher has to have a university level degree. I certainly agree that this is very important.

However, there is more to this. One particular thing is, that since the PISA tests are designed to test the success of the kids of the entire nation, it not only tests the best results of the best pupils, like in sports, but it actually tests the democracy of the educational system.

The Finnish school system has been very democratic for generations. We have absolutely no private schools to grab the best educators for the rich kids. Our system supports the schools, that are struggling with their results, rather than punishes them. If there are social problems in an area where a school subsequently produces bad results, they need support to create their education, rather than to be punished and end up in even worse mess than before.

The system is not perfect and it is under constant change. Too many Finnish kids do not find schools as supportive, or even purposefull places, but no man made system is perfect. Everything can be made ever better.

My own guess on why the Finnish schools have not done as well as they have before in the PISA tests is, that as the society around school is moving towards economic inequality, the school only reflects this. Part of this problem is the choises the parents have to make for the younger and younger kids and then there is the elitism. The parents may very well be able to make sensible choises for their kids, but also they are molding kids according to their own fantasies, before the kids even themselves know what they would choose to learn. Before anyone actually knows the inclinations and talents of the individual child. Elitism gives special support to different learners. Kids are different and some are faster and some are slower in learning particular new things, but rating them into groups according to such ablities sends out a message of segragation between succesfull and unsuccesfull. This results in the “unsuccesfull giving up too easily.

All in all, modern education should be equal. Healthier and more democratic society is more equal on every level. Even if the talented kids get frustrated for not being challenged enough, and the less talented kids get frustrated by not being able to learn fast enough, it is still a healthier model of educaltion, than that of marking little children into successes and failures from the start.

The world is full of information and disinformation. Scientific research, sciency sounding advertizing and propaganda. Not only adults need the skills to separate these two, but kids also need to learn. Otherwise they will grow ito ignorant voters.

The school can no longer be a place where information is poured into the heads of the kids simply by the authority of the teachers, rather it needs to become a place where the teachers give the kids the methods and means to evaluate the constant flow of information. The kids deserve to be taught to suspect authorities and to have the tools for critical thinking. Democratic society requires informed citizens, not automatons interrested in only passtime like fashion and sports.