This school year, more than 70 percent of Finland’s sixth-graders will participate in an innovative program called “Me & MyCity,” where they run their own miniature society for a day. “My students were extremely motivated [by the experience],” said Mona Paalanen, a Finnish elementary-school teacher.
[Read my newest Atlantic story, “Where Sixth-Graders Run Their Own City,” here!]
Over the years, Finland has borrowed many pedagogical ideas from America and then implemented them national-wide, according to Pasi Sahlberg (my colleague and the author of Finnish Lessons 2.0). But why hasn’t the United States done the same thing with its own innovative educational concepts?
Here’s what Pasi Sahlberg responded over email: “One big difference between the U.S. and Finland in implementation of new ideas or innovation is that there is no clear and commonly agreed education policy in the U.S. that would steer the development and directions of educational practice. Much of what goes on in American schools is about what school boards decide. Therefore there are extraordinary districts among the 14,000+ local entities with advanced and top-of-the-class innovation in all schools and most classrooms. Then there are those districts that are driven by political or ideological interests with little or no educational or pedagogical understanding among the board members. In Finland, there is a clear and jointly agreed national education policy that sets the priorities, values and main directions for the entire system. This policy, unlike in many other countries, has been rather consistent and sustainable since the 1970s that also gives teachers and school leaders comfort to implement ideas like [Me & MyCity] if and when they think that it helps them to accomplish common goals.”
P.S. And thank you for reading, “Where Sixth-Graders Run Their Own City,” and sharing! (Photo credit: Lauri Rotko of Me & MyCity)