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How to improve schools from start to Finnish

Finland has long been held up as a paragon of educational excellence, but as Henry Hepburn learns, the Finns themselves take a more circumspect view

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The scene is familiar to many teachers in Finland: yet another group of foreign visitors shuffling around their school, in search of an educational elixir. A common reaction – which I see as I explore Helsinki classrooms for myself – is quiet bemusement.

Finland has long soared high in international measures of educational success such as the United Nations’ Education Index and the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa). It also holds an appeal for those with a progressive idea of education, owing to its credo of equality (all children go to publicly-funded schools), distrust of ...

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