5. After years of overly bureaucratic education, Finland’s new model is almost utopian.

The Finnish teacher-training program is no joke. Admission into a Finnish teacher-training college is about as impressive as getting into medical school in the United States. One Finnish teachers union advertised that their teachers were among the most educated in the nation. The same could hardly be said for Elementary Ed majors here in the United States, where the programs are not rigorous, the applicants are below-average in SAT and ACT scores, and the training they receive is usually impractical and inefficient.

For a while, Finland had its own version of No Child Left Behind and a uniform, compulsory curriculum approved by the centralized government. There were standards that teachers had to meet, and regular classroom inspections from the government employers. Then, in the 1980s and 90s, Finland overhauled their educational system, particularly the ways they prepared teachers. They shut down subpar institutions and established high quality, rigorous training centers affiliated with top universities. More talented, dedicated teachers emerged from these programs, which removed the need for stifling regulation. In fact, the stifling regulation needed to be removed so the teachers could actually teach.

The few attempts to raise requirement levels for teacher training programs in the United States have met with serious resistance and criticism of elitism. But why? In the United States, teacher supply exceeds teacher demand by almost two and a half to one. In other words, there are two to three teachers vying for every teaching position available. 

Figures were even more lopsided in Rhode Island, where such reforms were seriously attempted. The state’s teacher-training colleges graduated 1,000 teachers when only 200 positions were available. 

All ten of the Finnish teachers at the school where the American exchange student enrolled graduated in the top third of their high school class. In America, only one in five teachers graduated with a similar class ranking.

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