The Finnish Minister of Education recently gave an interview where she spoke about the importance of equality in education. Finland is one of the very few countries in the world where education for all children and young adults is free and of high quality.
The education system here is built around equal opportunities for all young people to have a good education in the broadest sense of the word. Teachers receive a professional training at a high standard, and schools are expected to operate at the same high standards throughout the whole country.
Without going into a deeper analysis, the results of international education comparisons by the OECD show quite clearly that Finland has achieved exceptional results. But there is also other comparisons that can be used – Finland comes regularly at the top of the happiness indexes and Finland also enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world.
Taken together these three results showed the country must be doing something correctly. Regular criticism that is seen in the international media that Finland is a socialist country could not be further from the truth. Yes, we pay high taxes and some people grumble about this, but most people are satisfied because we get value for money from the equal opportunities that are available with universal education.
We also get value for money from our extensive public healthcare, security and many other well functioning public services.
The large majority of Finns are not fooled by the neoliberal mantra of small government, nor are they in love with excessive government. There is a continuous ambition to improve public services by making them more efficient.
How is it possible education, happiness and a high standard of living have been achieved in a country that has many months of subzero temperatures, has one of the 10 largest geographical areas in Europe, and is covered by huge areas of forests and lake systems with a tiny five and a half million population?
It certainly doesn’t have an adversarial political system like the UK or like the US.
Politics is organised along the lines of ad hoc coalitions between those parties who feel self-confident enough to work together with a common policy mandate after general elections. All possible combinations of left, centre and right, and all possible combinations of large and small parties have been tried and tested we better or worse results. That these combinations are possible is in fact the driving force behind the strength of this nation.
The Finnish Minister of Education used the word “inclusiveness” in that interview. Inclusiveness is the admission of importance of equality and equal opportunity, and the results quite simply in well-being.