Star-spangled spectacular? More like slightly average



Students in an October 2011 file image react during a science experiment in first grade class at Alexander Science Center School in Los Angeles, learning about three states of matter: gas, liquid, and solid. New education guidelines in the state call for an increase in hands-on learning opportunities. (Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

By Brandon Zegiel, Columnist

Finland provides substantial contributions to the European Union, housing roughly 5 million people within its borders. And while the country’s population totals that, it also calls itself a parliamentary republic, which is very structurally similar when looking across the pond at the U. S. But the educational philosophy that Finland proposes makes an absolute joke out of the United States, showing significant variation in terms of global ranking.

According to a study set up by The Economist, Finland ranks fifth in terms of “cognitive skills and educational alignment,” while the U. S. falls back at 14th. The difference in spots on the list have a default z-score, which explains how far above or below the average each country is.

The important fact here is that the U. S. is at a positive .39 (above average), as compared to Finland’s .92 (above average), establishing that both countries have great education systems, but Finland’s is better.  

So what? What exactly makes Finland’s school system so great to me, this study and to students on the Illinois campus? And while there are many different ideas among people around the globe for the greatness that lies inside of the average Finland classroom, there is one legitimate platform that supports my views most.

This lies on the line that teachers in primary and secondary schools in Finland receive pay similar to the salaries of professors at the universities, while working fewer hours, using the extra time to further the extensiveness of their next lesson plan. The teachers also make $2,000 more than the average American educator, at $43,000 a year (OECD Data), enforcing their work ethic as top-notch and their overall morale to be high.

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    Business Insider best compares Finland to the U. S. in an article addressing the four reasons that contribute to Finland’s superior education system. The text goes on to say, “It’s easy to understand why America’s teachers — who are overworked and get relatively little respect — might not be effective,” after stating that teachers in the U.S. work the longest hours but are [aid paid significantly less.

    Finland proposes this system specifically for the reason of introducing increased teacher morale, and the overall goal of doing so is to spark teachers to work hard by giving an incentive. This encourages students to learn more in the pre-college stage because their elders are motivated by high salaries and decreased work hours to prepare the students exceptionally well compared to other countries.

    The Smithsonian magazine makes known that 93 percent of students in Finland graduate from academic or vocational schools, which is 17.5 percentage points higher than the U. S.

    And among that percentage who graduate, 66 percent go on to further their education elsewhere, making Finland the best in the European Union. With this in mind, it’s implied that as more people graduate, the college-readiness level among students also rises.

    That being said, it is just natural to believe that students in Finland’s universities would do better than America’s educators and students simply because they have had better schooling in their pasts. The absence of respect in state governments for teachers nationwide is easy to see due to the stressful, ridiculously long hours and outrageous salaries; this sheds some light on why the U. S. ranks so low in relation to Finland.

    The U. S. is not so “star-spangled spectacular” anymore, and problems persist like never before in the education system along with other social institutions nationwide. It is important to address the fact that students are the gateway for future success and development of the prestigious country of America and could resolve the social issues that lay ahead worldwide.

    The road to bettering the education standard in this country starts with proper treatment of the teachers who get us into college. That calls for a more competitive wage to the amount professors make and more time to prepare lessons for the given week for their students. After that, we can evaluate how to continue in solving the problem.

    For the only way to truly begin solving a problem is to admit there actually is one first.

    America is still capable of being the world’s greatest country. But it will take social mobilization for policies that are socially and morally acceptable and the betterment of education stands to fit both of those principles.

    Brandon is a sophomore in LAS.

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