Monday, June 23, 2014


Book Review: On Top of the World: How the Finns Educate Their Children

The Finnish flag
That orange section in Finalnd
If you teach anywhere in the world you have surely heard about how, Finland has, “the best education,” in the world.
Many of the educational forums or Facebook pages I am a member of will often reference Finland’s educational system in research, news articles or memes.
In addition, when I did my Masters in Spain we studied how the education in Finland was unique. We mainly focused on the attitude people have towards teachers as well as the training that teachers have.
Even with this background, I found the book really interesting. Part of what I really liked about it is it was written by the mother of three children (aged 7, 9, and 12). I really like that it is written by a mother, not an educational expert or a curriculum designer. 

Basically, with the fame of the Finnish educational system, Maria is often asked about what makes their system so much better than everywhere else. She doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but in how in a quick 14 chapters she answers the question: what are the Finns doing in their school?
I found On Top of the World: How the Finns Educate Their Children a nice overall summary of how the educational system works. Some of it was new to me, and some of it was review, but none of it was pretentious or useless.
She ends the book with several key takeaways I feel I can implement as an educator:
·         Communicate with the parents!
o   My colleagues and I have discussed how this can be different with different schools. Some schools don’t encourage communication with parents. Other schools foster it! I think the key is to remember that parents are your allies, not enemies.
·         Encourage students to learn another language.
o   As a language teacher…I may be biased
·         Don’t be afraid to add a physical nature to your lessons
o   Not every lesson can be a soccer game, but getting students to move around can be helpful.
·         Use “playing” as a learning tool.
o   We all learn better when we aren’t trying to learn! Maybe try a vocabulary game!
·         Respect students as individuals
o   Understand that not all students will succeed at the same things.
If you want to read a concise compilation of how the Finnish education system works, this is a fast, easy and simple read I encourage you to look into. Plus, it LESS than a dollar!
No time for the book? Check out this infographic on Finlands.

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