Finland’s classrooms are very different from America’s — far more permissive, with less of an emphasis on academics. There are no standardized tests until high school, and children get 15 minutes of recess in between lessons — more than an hour of recess a day. “Play is important,” one Finnish teacher told the Smithsonian magazine. “We value play.”
Yet Finnish kids always get good grades on comparisons of student achievement between countries. Their average scores on the Program for International Student Assessment, a test that’s given to 15-year-olds in 65 countries, are among the highest in the developed world. As a result, critics of education reform in the United States often cite the Finnish example. It’s a stark contrast to America’s reliance on using test scores in public school teacher evaluations, or the strict, “no-excuses” model of discipline in charter schools that many have touted as improving academic results.