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March 15, 2010

No Education Silver Bullet

Dana Goldstein:

In the United States, the education debate has been framed as a zero-sum game. But a look at Finland, whose schools rank No. 1 in global surveys, shows that a national commitment to education can neutralize political debates over school reform.

Last spring, Timo Jaatinen, a Finnish high school teacher living in Virginia, was surfing Internet job boards looking for a position in his home country. After a few phone interviews, Jaatinen was offered a spot as an English and Swedish teacher at Alppila Upper Secondary School in Helsinki, a popular general education high school with a reputation for attracting students interested in the arts.

"The principal said, 'This job is yours,'" remembered Jaatinen, one of those young, dynamic teachers who you'd guess teenagers instinctively respect. "And then she said, 'Do you want to go to Rome?'"

Jaatinen was lucky. Alppila had scored well on the city of Helsinki's educational benchmarks for the 2007-2008 school year, and all the school's teachers were rewarded with modest salary bonuses and a free Italian vacation, to which new teachers were also invited. Jaatinen headed back to Finland to begin his new job and claim his trip.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at March 15, 2010 1:13 AM
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