Finnish kids are the smartest in the world, right?

UPDATE: I removed the video, it made the site run slow, but you can watch it at WSJ

After my culture comparing post I got an e-mail asking my opinion on why Finnish education is on the top of the world.

Background for the statement of Finnish children being the smartest in the world comes from PISA test implemented by OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) for students in 57 countries in 2006. “Finland, with an average of 563 score points, was the highest-performing country on the PISA 2006 science scale” according to OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) .

PISA test is implemented every three years, and the 2006 test was the third ever made, and Finland has excelled in all three tests. Wall Street Journal just recently wrote an article and on their site you can also watch video with a short review made by WSJ finding reasons why Finnish children are the smartest in the world.

On the video Aili Flint, head of Finnish Studies at Columbia University pointed out some reasons why Finnish children excel well:

– Children start school at age 7, when the children already have many skills and are developmentally more in the same level as children at age 4-6 years old.
– Not large gaps between the weakest and strongest student in classes.
– Small class sizes.
– Less studying, more play.
– TV is a studying tool, the American TV shows, even cartoons are in subtitles, making children want to learn to read.

While I am profoundly proud of my country making the headlines on such an important issue as education, I have also been impressed with many things in the American school system. I have been in the privileged position to experience the now world-famous Finnish school system, while my own children are experiencing the school in the United States. I am not worried for my children’s education, nor I wish my children went to school in Finland any more than I wish they could experience other Finnish traditions. Of course I would love my children to experience it all, but I love where we are right now, and it is very unlikely we will ever move back to Finland – not even for schools.

I have gathered a lot of information about Finnish school system, and possible reasons why the kids in Finland could be the “smartest in the world”. Some of it might be shocking (children are taught sex education and religion), some of it might be unbelievable (children spend only 30 minutes a day making homework, and have shorter school days) .

Finnish School System – the good, the bad and the ugly truth.

Brain Food helps Finns to excel – it’s all about the right nutrition

Why don’t we see Finnish Innovations, or do we? – where that education takes you

Finns Study Religion, Evolution and Sexuality – Educated minds make educated choices.
  1. I think that kids these days have to grow up so fast, and that they still need the time to play and be kids. The schools here in US seem to push more towards testing, and maybe that’s why the kids are burn out before even getting to high school. Great to know that it is actually been proven that by allowing the kids to have more time for play will make them smarter.
    Great post again,


  2. Very informative. I would certainly like to see some of these ideas implemented in the American School system.
    Thanks Katja!

  3. Mä lukaisin pikaisesti Suomi-aiheiset jutut läpi ja mun mielestä on hienoa, että tuot Suomea maailman kartalle : )) Ja tuot esille sekä hyviä että huonoja puolia. Vesisateisin terveisin: Sanna A

  4. Olipa kiva lukea kaikki nama Suomeen liittyvat postaukset. Jopa opin jotain uutta kotimaastani. :) Sina kun kasittelet aiheen niin kasittelet sen lapikohtaisesti (onko oikea sana?). Mua nauratti nuo “kun tulit Amerikkaan kulttuurierot”. Minua edelleen arsyttaa niin alysti kun pitaa sanoa “how are you?” ja aina muka pitaisi vaan sanoa “I’m great.” Jos eivat halua tietaa niin ei tarvi kysya. :) Saako muuten sielta Xylitol purkkaa? Itse en ole loytanyt taalta.

  5. Guess I am partial to kids in SW Florida, America that is!! I definitely think American kids are the smartest!

  6. Sounds like the Finnish education philosophy is much the same as many homeschoolers. Allowing and encouraging kids to choose their own methods of learning in the way they play and in their specific interests. Very interesting.

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