What Australia can learn from Finland about change in schools

The secret of school reform with implications for whole-school literacy

This is Pasi Sahlberg.

Professor of Education Policy at UNSW, and Finnish expert on effectiveness in schooling. We all know that Finland regularly tops the tables for world literacy and PISA results. So what are the secrets of Finnish educators? And how can that help us to implement whole school literacy?

In today's newspaper, Pasi wrote an opinion piece about what teachers need as we open up from lockdown. Unsurprisingly, I agree with him on many of his points. He has long noted that:

  • Australian teachers should be paid more (YES!)

  • Australian teachers deserve more respect in the community (YES!)

  • Australian teachers need to spend less time on admin and compliance (YES!)

  • Australian teachers need to spend more time in collegial discussion working on real problems in classrooms and helping the needs of diverse learners (YES!)

As you're probably aware, I am also arguing that teachers in faculty groups need more time talking together about literacy and their assessment programs. It's one of my pillars for successful literacy.

Finland is a lighthouse country, a world leader for literacy achievement and school improvement. And what's the secret... professional collaboration.

'In Finland, where I began my career as a teacher, it is the culture of professional collaboration that has done so much to improve the educational performance of schools.' (Sahlberg, 2021)

That's the message for literacy leaders today. Find more time for teachers to collaborate on meaningful teaching and learning projects in literacy. Table these points for discussion at the next executive meeting:

  1. How can we find time for teachers to collaborate on teaching and learning, and on literacy?

  2. Are there any ways we can automate or support teachers more in admin and compliance?

If you do, the results might be better than you could ever have hoped, as Pasi notes in today's article:

Research shows that the more teachers collaborate, the more everybody benefits, including students. Furthermore, when schools collaborate and help one another to improve, the pace of change can exceed expectations. (Sahlberg 2021)

Here's the link to his full article, with the excellent title: Australians trust scientists on COVID. Why don't they listen to teachers on school reform?


Sahlberg, P. (2021, October 21). Australians trust scientists on COVID. Why don't they listen to teachers on school reform? The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/commentisfree/2021/oct/11/australian-politicians-trust-scientists-on-covid-why-dont-they-listen-to-teachers-on-school-reform

To cite this post, please reference:

Weekes, T. (2021, October 12). What Australia can learn from Finland about change in schools. Available at: www.literacyinsecondaryschools.com