A meme that is floating around the interwebs claims that Finland’s education system outperforms the United States because “We pay teachers like doctors, students enjoy over an hour of recess, and there’s no mandatory testing – the opposite of what America does.”
That all sounds great … it just isn’t true.
In Finland general practitioners earn, on average, about $70,000 per year, which is less than half of what doctors earn in the United States. The average salary for primary education teachers with 15 years experience in Finland is about $37,500, compared to $45,225 in the United States. Moreover, the cost of living in Finland is about 30% higher.
In short: higher teacher salaries are not what make Finland’s education system better than ours. And I suspect it isn’t recess either.
And, of course, having a curriculum that is more closely aligned with the PISA (the metric by which people judge Finland to be better) than almost any other industrialized nation may exaggerate Finland’s superiority significantly.