Education
9:00 pm
Wed November 28, 2012

Finnish Author Pasi Sahlberg Receives 2013 Grawemeyer in Education

A Finnish author and education reformer has won the University of Louisville's 2013 Grawemeyer Award for education.

Pasi Sahlberg says Finland's education reforms didn't happen over night.

Pasi Sahlberg directs Finland’s Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation and is also author of "Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?"

The book explains how reforms that began in the 1970s led to the current success the public school system is experiencing. Finland was once poorly ranked educationally and had large inequalities among its students.

However, Finland's public school system has found a way to develop teachers and provide all students access to quality education in part by providing free healthcare, transportation, counseling services and other resources.

“Our conclusion was we have to have schools where all these basic needs are provided to everybody, everyday in all the schools," Sahlberg told WFPL.

In Finland, elementary school students have a four-hour day, are assigned little homework, rarely take tests and don't even start school until age seven, according to Diane Kyle, a U of L education professor who is faculty director for the award.

The United States, said Sahlberg, shouldn’t adopt all of Finland’s education reforms but should continue looking abroad for best practices. He's critical of the amount of testing in U.S. schools and says the testing business is taking money away from other resources, like supporting teacher development.

Rather than testing all students, Finland selects samples of students to test to measure student achievement, he said.

“By using samples you could save a lot of money and resources to do something else,” he said.

Sahlberg will be in Louisville next spring to receive his award and $100,000 prize.