Cooking up success: why Finns learn better

by Hannah von Ahlefeld
Analyst, OECD Centre for Effective Learning Environments

Has well-known Finnish cartoonist B. Virtanen hit on the recipe for success in Finland’s exemplary education system? The OECD / CELE conference in Finland this week will reveal all.
Consistently, Finnish students have earned top marks from the OECD’s landmark PISA study, which tests the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in more than 70 countries. Finland has won recognition as an international reference point for best practice in educational improvement, creating a wave of so-called PISA tourism. 
While some success factors, or ingredients, are relatively simple to identify and measure – such as a well-paid, well-trained and highly valued teaching force, a homogenous society, and a focus on equity and inclusion – others are not so simple to define. And the way in which those ingredients are mixed together is all important.
There is intense interest today in the nature of learning and creating the environments in which it can flourish. Although we lack conclusive empirical evidence, ongoing OECD studies have made important contributions towards highlighting the role of innovation in fostering effective learning environments. Experience from Australia, the UK and Portugal, as well as Finland has given us ideas to discuss and learn from.
But too many of today’s schools still operate with traditional approaches that do not encourage deep collaborative learning, innovation or provide the capacity for lifelong learning. So, is a major paradigm shift required in order for learning environments to catch up with 21st century needs and demands? How can communities initiate major endeavors of vision and innovation? 
In Finland from 22-24 February 2012, more than 170 people will have the great fortune to observe, experiment, and learn first-hand some of the many approaches to effective learning environments used in Finnish schools at an OECD conference entitled “A Recipe for Success: Transforming Learning Environments through Dynamic Local Partnerships”. 
The conference will bring together a range of local, regional and international players from universities, local businesses and school communities to discuss the catalysts and drivers for transforming today’s learning environments into dynamic learning communities of the future. The conference settings – a comprehensive school in Turku, and the well-reputed Department of Teacher Training at the University of Turku, Rauma; speakers including OECD Director for Education, Barbara Ischinger; and experiential workshops, are sure to stimulate. 

The conference commences on the evening of 22 February. To register, contact or go to the web site

A Recipe for Success: Transforming Learning Environments through Dynamic Local Partnerships”, Turku, Finland, 22-24 February 2012
Website for the OECD Centre for Effective Learning Environments
Follow us on twitter @ OECD_Edu  #CELEFinland

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Photo credit: B.Vartanen

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