Guest post by Sharae Brown, Development Officer, TASC.
I didn’t see many of the movies that were celebrated at the Academy Awards this past weekend, but I am grateful for the last movie I did see: The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System. On a beautiful day this week, I spent my lunch break watching and discussing the film with my colleagues at TASC.
The documentary gives a glimpse into how Finland became an education superpower. Finland now ranks at the top of almost all academic indicators used to measure countries’ education systems, and it has virtually no achievement gap among students.
I was impressed and struck by the differences in Finland’s educational system as compared to the U.S. system; they have greater trust among all stakeholders, fewer standardized tests and more teacher preparation and appreciation. Perhaps most striking was Finland’s focus on equity rather than excellence. Could this be the great secret behind their success?
I was encouraged by similarities I saw in their approach as compared to TASC’s ExpandED Schools model, with both emphasizing:
- More intimate and personalized working relationships with students
- Project-based learning that incorporates arts and science
- Engaging, fun but rigorously academic curricula and activities
- Collaborative teaching and coaching for staff
- Providing all students the opportunities to be great at something
Overall I thought the film was good, however much of the footage focused on what happens in the upper grades and during the traditional school day. It would have been great to view elementary school life and to get a better sense of what Finnish kids do after school.
There is something magical about a film’s ability to teach, promote dialogue and demystify issues often perceived as complex, so I’m glad that movies focused on education systems—like The Finland Phenomenon and Waiting for Superman—are giving the public the opportunity to learn, compare and contrast, and engage in education dialogue. And we never know, one day there just might be an Academy Award category for these films.
What other education-related movies should we be watching?