When my newest roommate moved into the house, it didn’t take me long to notice that she is a remarkably bright lady. She’s not that nerd who’s only book smart, either. She is well versed in just about…everything…and incredibly articulate. However, I never thought that her smarts had anything to do with the fact that she’s Finnish until recently.
According to new studies, Finnish teenagers are some of the smartest teenagers in the world, and yet, these kids aren’t nerds who do nothing but study. They seem to waste about the same amount of time surfing the web and obsessing over music as we in America do. They don’t seem to take anything any more seriously than anyone else. Yet somehow, they are far ahead in subjects like math, science, and reading by the time they’re fifteen years old.
They don’t have something special in their water or food. Finnish parents don’t beat their kids into intelligence at night, either. The secret seems to simply be teachers who are well trained and students who take responsibility in themselves and their education.
Most of the schools in Finland also are without “distractions” like sports, band, or even prom. I can’t help but believe that Finnish kids can focus so much more intently on their studies because they’re not being weighed down by the social drama that often accompanies such extra curricular activities (how many hours do we waste staring at the phone the week before prom, hoping that person will call?).
And it seems as though the reason why these sorts of programs don’t always exist in schools in Finland is because there isn’t really any pressure. College is free…so there is no pressure to be the all star of the basketball team in order to give you an edge with your college application. The only thing that matters is your academic performance. Kids don’t start school until around the age of seven. They don’t have to wear shoes in class. They can pick out their own lunches…which are also free. Over and over again, Finnish kids prove to have more self-reliant lives.
But can we back off of our children that much in places like New York when college is still expensive and scholarships are highly competitive? Can we ever relax enough to let our children WANT to learn…instead of HAVING to learn?
My roommate doubts it…and…I kind of do, too. But I’d like to know what you think.