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Why are US schools mediocre?

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant tried to correlate the mediocrity of the country's school system with both parents in the home working. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant was asked that question, and he didn’t hesitate – he said that working parents, “I think when both parents started working and the mom is the workplace – it’s not a bad thing – I’m going to get in trouble, I can just see.”

Yet look at Finland, where there are lots of working parents but student performance leads the world. What’s their secret?

“Four years ago when we started to build this current school system we decided to invest heavily in equity,” explained Pasi Sahlberg.

Sahlberg is from Finland’s education ministry and helped design a system whose main feature is equity. Which means equal facilities, and every teacher – even at the elementary level – getting a level of education similar to a medical degree.

They didn’t set out to be the best! In fact, there was a fear that equality would create mediocrity but it turned out to be just the opposite.

Equity created excellence – because at the same time Finland decided the schools would also be responsible for eradicating poverty.

“When we understood that we want to make sure everyone is here to learn, school is the only place that everybody goes to and that’s why we integrate, embedded these things into our school system,” says Sahlberg. “It’s not socialism – it’s realism.”

And Finnish realism says for education to be successful, poverty cannot be tolerated.

Here in the U.S. we ask “is the child ready for for school?” Not in Finland.

“In Finland when you speak about school readiness do you ask whether the school where children are coming is ready
to host and welcome everybody as they are.”

It’s made Finland, where in 64 percent of the households both parents work, number one in educational achievement.

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