Finland. A cold Scandinavian country that shocked the world (and itself) when the first PISA test results came out. They were #1. Since that fateful day in 2001, everyone wants to know how they became so successful.
What does the book The Smartest Kids in the World attribute to Finland’s success? Teacher training. Full stop.
Consider this:

  • The only accredited teacher training programs are in 8 prestigious universities.
  • As part of the application, teachers sit for a special subject-area exam.
  • Roughly 20% of applicants are accepted.
  • All teachers must get a master’s degree.
  • Two years of in-service training with three experienced mentors who give feedback on instruction
  • To complete their degree, Finnish teachers must conduct original research and write a 200 page thesis.

Wow. Compare that to the United States:

  • 1 out of 20 education schools is located in a top tier university.
  • The U.S. produces almost two and a half times the number of teachers we need.
  • The required ACT score for a teacher in many universities is below the national average.
  • “Less than half American high-school math teachers major in math. Almost a third do not even minor in math.” (p.93)

Pretty compelling. What do you think?