For much of the 21st century, Finland has been one of the very top performers in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an ongoing study administered every three years that tests the reading, math and science literacy of 15-year-olds in developed nations.
PISA doesn’t measure memorizable facts, but rather how students apply theory and thinking in answering questions. Finland’s students had been so successful on these tests that educators and leaders of other countries began looking to the country as an example of how to run an effective education system.
Headlines show a world smitten with the Finnish approach:
“How Finland broke every rule – and created a top school system”
“What Finland Can Teach China about education”
Reducing education spending always comes with consequences.” – Pasi Sahlbert
“What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. Schools”
“Happy teaching, Happy Learning: 13 Secrets to Finland’s Success”
But in the 2015 PISA iteration, the results of which were released Monday (Dec. 5), Finland continued its slide that was first evident in the 2012 results when the country’s math score dropped out of the top 10 for the first time. The drop-off in math scores from 2009 to 2012 was 2.8 percent. Science scores dropped 3 percent, reading 1.7 percent.