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Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

The turn of the millennium was the year of Finnish children’s great success — they appeared to be the most educated people in whole Europe. Today, 17 years later, Finns still stand tall on the podium. Germany, France, Spain, Poland . . . the whole Europe wonders: How do they do that? As far as I know, it’s a result of hard work, rationally reconsidered reforms and some of the national features that the Finns possess. Here are four things in Finnish education and mentality that deserve tons of respect.

1. Let the children be children. I think that majority of children just aren’t socially and mentally ready to be students before reaching the age of seven. That doesn’t mean that the Finnish children laze around before this — reportedly Donald Duck (Aku Ankka) is their first teacher of written language. Finnish mothers find that the comic book’s language is very challenging and teaches the children by entertainment. In result, some children can even read before school.

2. Freedom for student and teacher. I’m a great opponent against teaching children how to study for tests — it won’t help them in their future lives. While in Finland the pupils prepare for tests, it’s great that the teachers have the freedom to choose textbooks and that the curriculum is suggestive. Teachers know the children best.

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3. Rivalry? No, not a rat race. In some countries, especially Asian ones, the rivalry is inscribed in education. Everybody wants to be the one, the best — better than all the others. Apparently, in Finland marks appear to have only suggestive value. No pressure.

4. Teaching is a dream job. We have a saying in Poland that is used when you want to wish someone bad: “Go and educate other people’s children.” The saying is an embodiment of the old Polish thought process: teaching other people’s children is so hard, stressful and difficult that I wish this task to be the job of my enemy. In Finland, no such expression exists. Teacher’s job is respected, and it isn’t easy to become a teacher. In the end, it’s great to be a guide for the little people.