Chapter 10: Finland

Chapter 1:   Setting the Scene
Chapter 2:   Where to Start?
Chapter 3:   OECD PISA Reports
Chapter 4:   UNICEF Report
Chapter 5:   Decline of USA
Chapter 6:   The UK Experience
Chapter 7:   My UK Experience
Chapter 8:   People at the coalface
Chapter 9:   Stressed out Children
Chapter 10: Finland
Chapter 11: The Interview
Chapter 12: Pointers for the Future
Chapter 13: Music – The Crucial Ingredient
Chapter 14: Conclusion

Any examination of the various PISA Reports indicate that, overall, Finnish students perform better than any other country. This success is due to a variety of factors but not least is the administrative structure within which Finnish teachers work. 

However, firstly we shall provide some indicators showing that Finland is dissimilar in many areas to countries whose students perform badly when compared with their Finnish counterparts. USA and UK are clear examples of these latter countries and believe they are implementing correct and efficient education policies when, sadly, the opposite is the case. 

With reference to the Finnish system, imagine an educational system where:

a) Children do not start school until they are 7;

b) Spending is under $4,800 a year per student (2004 – latest OECD international comparisons);

c) There are no gifted programmes;

d) Class sizes often approach 30. 

Compare such a system with the USA where children start at five, spending is $6043 a year per student, nearly every school district possesses a gifted programme, and class sizes generally are smaller than Finland. 

In the eyes of many experts, and because of the above determinants, the Finnish system should show produce inferior results compared with the USA. The opposite is the case with students in Finland outperforming all others in the majority of categories. 

Finland’s Success
Why do educators from all over the world continually visit Finland? They visit because they want to find out the reasons for their success. 

“We are a little bit embarrassed about our success,” said Simo Juva, a special government adviser to the Ministry of Education, summing up the typical reaction in Finland, where boasting over accomplishments does not come easily. 

The question on people’s minds is obvious. How did Finland come overall top of the PISA rankings in all their assessments in the first decade of this century and which was hobbled by a deep recession in the 1990s, manage to outscore all the other OECD countries, including the USA? 

As previously described, PISA rankings were, and are, based on reading, math and science tests. Why is the USA which spends approximately nearly a third per capita head more on education always placed below Finland and is usually placed somewhere in the middle of the rankings. 

Finland’s recipe is similar to that in other Nordic countries both complex and unabashedly basic. It isn’t rocket science to distinguish areas in which other OECD countries, particular UK and USA, are vastly different. 

Quality and social standing of its teachers
One such area and already mentioned by Barry Macgaw director for education at the OECD, which sets Finland apart is the quality and social standing of its teachers. 

All teachers in Finland must have at least a master’s degree, and while they are no better paid than teachers in other countries, the profession is highly respected. Many more people want to become teachers after graduating from upper schools than universities can actually handle, so the vast majority are turned down. 

“Teaching is the No. 1,” Outi Pihlman, the English teacher at Suutarila Lower Comprehensive School, said about a recent survey asking teenagers to name their favourite profession. “At that age, you would think they would want anything but to go back to school.” 

The Suutarila School
The Suutarila school, cheerful, well lit, nicely heated, is typical of Finnish “comprehensive schools,” which run from first to ninth grade. The students, who number about 500, pad about in their socks. After every 45-minute lesson, they are let loose outside for 15 minutes so they can burn off steam. 

Others are allowed to practice their music, and they file into classrooms, sling electric guitars across their chests or grab drumsticks and jam. 

Children here start school late on the theory that they will learn to love learning through play. Preschool for six-year-olds is optional, although most attend. And since most women work outside the home in Finland, children usually go to day care after they turn one. 

At first, the seven-year-olds lag behind their peers in other countries in reading, but they catch up almost immediately and then excel. Experts cite several reasons: reading to children, telling folk tales and going to the library are activities cherished in Finland. 

Could it be that for once, content and methodology are related to neuro-functioning and, therefore, we have the very unusual situation where the connection between the process of decoding and hemispheric brain activity is the right one? Lastly, children grow up watching television shows and movies (many in English) with subtitles. So they read while they watch television. 

Freedom for Teachers
So long as schools stick to the core national curriculum, which lays out goals and subject areas, they are free to teach the way they want. They can choose their textbooks or ditch them altogether, teach indoors or outdoors, cluster children in small or large groups. 

While there are no programs for gifted children, teachers are free to devise ways to challenge their smartest students. The smarter students help teach the average students. “Sometimes you learn better that way,” said Pirjo Kanno, the principal in Suutarila. Students must learn two foreign languages – Swedish is required by law, and most also take English. Art, music, physical education, woodwork and textiles (which is mostly sewing and knitting) are obligatory for girls and boys. 

Hot and healthy school lunches are free. There are also ninety computers scattered about the school, and students are free to attend homework clubs staffed by assistants after school. Despite the accolades, Finnish officials say they are far from perfect. 

Boys, for example, perform much worse than girls in reading, and with so many wanting to become teachers, too few are willing to leap outside the social service sphere. “We’re trying to get them to start their own businesses,” said Kirsi Lindroos, the national board of education’s director general. 

The above information speaks for itself. Why do not countries such as the UK and USA adapt Finnish policies? Because their politicians and administrators are corrupted by power, power that makes their nations’ children a lower priority than their political agendas!

If interested, Mollet Learning Academy (MLA) and WideHorizon Education Resources (WER) produces Teaching Packs that are designed to appeal to the heart, head and hands. Original material is the Mollet Learning Academy (MLA) Teaching Packs (written initially for New Zealand teachers). On request from USA teachers, monitoring and assessment procedures were added and renamed WER Teaching Packs to distinguish them from MLA Teaching Packs. All lessons are designed to appeal to the heart, head and hands. 

Business Plan at

For overall content of Ancient Civilisations please click
Program Overview Ancient Civilisations
For overall content of Ancient Kush please click  Program Overview Kush
For overall content of History of California please click
Overview Teachers Handbook CA
For overall content re improving reading and language skills through history please click Overview Reading History
For overall content re MLA approach to teaching
mathematics please click Overview Teaching Math
For overall content re MLA approach to teaching
fractions please click Fractions Teacher Handbook
For overall content re MLA approach to teaching multiplication tables please click Multiplication Tables Teachers Handbook 

Previous PowerPoint presentations converted to pdfs for wordpress
Ancient China P_China
Ancient Egypt P_Egypt
Ancient Greece P_Greece
Ancient India P_India
Ancient Israelites P_Israelites
Ancient Kush P_Kush
Mesopotamia P_Mesopotamia
Early Humankind/Prehistory P_Prehistory
Ancient Rome P_Rome

Fractions P_Fractions
Multiplication Tables  P_MultiplicationTables

The following free sample lessons (sorry limit one at present) are available in this order: Ancient Civilisations (Ancient China, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient India, Ancient Kush, Ancient Israelites, Ancient Rome, Mesopotamia, Prehistory/Early Humankind), Fractions, Multiplication Tables, History of California, See below titles for descriptions.

Ancient China  (Lessons 4/5 of Module 2)
Mathematics, Counting Rods and Chinese Abacus
Ancient Egypt (Lesson 3 of Module 3)
Papyrus – how it is made, activities etc
Ancient Greece (Lesson 1 of Module 2)
Story “Parrhasius and Helena”, Guided Reading,
The Court of Law, Simulate an Athenian Court of Law.
Ancient India  (Lesson 3 of Module 2)
“Asoka and the Mauryan Empire,” “India’s National Emblem,”
Assessment Rubric for India’s National Emblem,
Ancient Kush (Lesson 2 of Module 2)
Story “Expedition to Jebel Barkal,” “Jebel Barkal: A Poem,”
Guided Reading, Review Exercises
Ancient Israelites (Lesson 2 of Module 1)
Story “Abraham,” Father of a Nation, Guided Reading
Ancient Rome (Lesson 3 of Module 2)
“The people of Rome speak out,” Story “Julius Caesar,”
Crossing the Rubicon, Guided Reading
Mesopotamia (Lesson 4 of Module 3)
Story “Gilgamesh,” “The Death of Enkidu.”
Prehistory/Early Humankind (Lesson 2 of Module 2)
The Crô-Magnons including story “The Lascaux Caves”,
Guided Reading and “The Cave Paintings at Altmira.”

Fractions SubUnit 3.4 Drama: A Tale of Fractions
A free lesson/drama involving students in a drama about the Pied Piper of Hamelin

Multiplication Tables SubUnit 3.7 Ten Times Table: Mr. Pickles
A free lesson, activities, story, game/, patterns,
cooperative learning activities about the ten times table

History of California Lesson 5.6 The Gold Rush: Part 1
A free lesson describing the background of the gold rush and life in the gold fields

For video clips please see
Ancient Civilisations
Ancient China
Multiplication Tables
McLaren Rd talk
Be the ONE who listens 

Since advent of social media all material is now in pdf format (no postage or processing fee). Physical copies (postage/processing fees apply) can be provided at additional cost – please contact MLA.
Each SubUnit (not Unit) costs USA $19.95
  NZ $24.95
(This price includes permission to photocopy)

1. The MLA approach to education believes in developing the creative and imaginative side of the student in harmony with the intellectual and cognitive. To achieve this, MLA Teaching Packs make stories and drama an integral part of the lessons and involve students through storytelling, art, simulations, drama, craft, discussion and creation of a personal record.

2. There are MLA Teaching Packs for teaching
a) Ancient Civilizations/World History
b) History of California and
c) Mathematics (Fractions and Multiplication Tables)

3. In a MLA Teaching Pack you will find teacher guidelines, stories providing an in-depth experience, information sheets presented in an interesting and stimulating format, activity sheets, suggestions for further research, maps with related activities, questions for discussion and assessment, dramas for class/school performance, guidance for the student’s personal record or portfolio, a variety of review exercises and contents designed and structured for authentic assessment

4. For an explanation of the philosophy behind the writing of these packs click here
(David Mollet’s HomePage)

5. If you are interested in how your students can work with top quality papyrus (imported from Egypt) click here.

6. We have also customized our material for USA public schools. This material includes monitoring and assessment procedures for students some of which are not based on the MLA approach.

7. Information on workshops/presentations for introducing the MLA approach into public schools available at: here (WideHorizon) and here (Waldorf))

8. Click here to read what teachers think about our lessons/newsletters.

“These resource packs contain unbound, ready-to-use reproducible masters, that are varied, simple, and appealing to students. The interactive strategies suggested are suitable for independent, small-group, and whole-class assignments.”
(Grade 6 Course Models – California State Department of Education)

9. Click here to go to author’s experiences in the Waldorf world.

10. Click here for details of on-line courses accredited by San Diego State University.

Dr. David Mollet
NZ: h 09-555-2021 m 022-101-1741, 41 Hilling St, Titirangi, Auckland 0604 
USA: 619-463-1270, 6656 Reservoir Lane, San Diego, CA 92115 (Skype waldorfedu)

1) The material was initially written for New Zealand teachers but on request from USA teachers, monitoring and assessment procedures were added. To view this material please visit
WideHorizon Education Resources (WER) Waldorf Education Resources (WER)
2) MLA is also involved in researching on an international basis, what works and what doesn’t work. Most of the research results can be seen at while a draft of a book The Task for New Zealand Education is at
3) Blogs at
4) Business Plan at
5) Papyrus


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