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Real Finnish Lessons

Real Finnish Lessons: the true story of an education superpower
Tim Oates in conversation with Gabriel Heller Sahlgren
22nd April 2015, 55 Tufton Street, Westminster

Since Finland made it big in the PISA rankings of 2001, and in spite of its subsequent decline, policymakers around the world have tried to learn from its extraordinary and unexpected success. Standard policy explanations for the country’s rise include its focus on equity, with the comprehensive school reform of the 1970s as the bedrock; the absence of standardised tests and test-based accountability; and its ‘collaborative culture’ and avoidance of market reforms. Other explanations highlight comparatively little school- and homework, and the country’s current teacher education system. Yet there is little evidence to support these explanations.

In a ground-breaking new paper – Real Finnish Lessons: the true story of an education superpower – published this month by The Centre for Policy Studies, Gabriel Heller Sahlgren refutes many of the standard explanations, and shows how the outcomes, both positive and negative, are better explained by a detailed examination of Finland’s history and educational culture.

At this joint event, co-hosted by The Centre for the Study of Market Reform of Education (CMRE) and The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), Tim Oates discusses with Gabriel the lessons for policymakers, educational practice, and research.

View a video of the event here.

Gabriel Heller Sahlgren is Director of Research at the Centre for the Study of Market Reform of Education (CMRE), an affiliated research fellow at the Research Institute of Industrial Economics in Stockholm, Sweden, and a PhD student at the London School of Economics. He is the author of numerous publications on issues relating to applied microeconomics, including Incentivising Excellence: School Choice and Education Quality (CMRE and IEA 2013).

Tim Oates is Group Director of Assessment Research and Development at Cambridge Assessment and a member of CMRE's Academic Advisory Council. In 2010, he published Could do better, which laid down the principles for the review of the National Curriculum in England, and subsequently took the chair of the Expert Panel charged with that task. He has published widely on assessment and is a member of Ofqual’s Standards Advisory Group. Tim routinely provides briefings and advice to UK and other governments. He is a visiting professor at the University of Leeds and a Fellow of Churchill College Cambridge. Tim was appointed CBE for his services to education in 2015.