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Europe and Central Asia

The magic of education in Finland

Barbara Bruns's picture
Photo Credit: Barbara Bruns / World Bank

Anyone working in education is familiar with the story of Finland’s remarkable evolution into one of the world’s top-performing education systems. The country ranked fifth in science and sixth in reading on the 2012 PISA assessment, second on the 2012 PIAAC (the new OECD test of adult literacy) , and is routinely in the top five of practically every other international measure of education quality.  To visitors from standards-and-accountability-heavy countries such as the UK and the US, or from low-performing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), Finland’s formula can seem like magic.   All teachers have a Master’s degree. There is no student testing. There are no school inspections or rankings. Students have little homework and teachers work few hours. Teachers are trusted professionals with full autonomy in the classroom.               

My study tour to Finland in September 2015 convinced me that this formula is indeed magic.  Why?  Because the popular version of the “Finnish story” neglects elements of the institutional context that are so hard-wired into the system that the locals hardly register them.  Three crucial elements, in particular, create an accountability framework that makes it possible for the “magic” to work. 

How universities can respond to the new demands of the labor market and society

Claudia Costin's picture

Every moment- but most especially today- we should celebrate young people and the great potential they have. Happy International Youth Day!

I’ve been fortunate to meet and talk to several bright young people in my work. Last May, on the sidelines of the Bologna Ministerial Conference in Armenia, I had a chance to visit the (World Bank-supported) Simulation Center at the Yerevan State Medical University. My colleagues from Armenia and I observed how mannequins connected to a computer simulated medical situations where students would work on a dummy and it would ‘respond’ to them by closely mimicking the reactions of real-life patients. The university rector, Professor Narimanyan, explained that this innovative method allows students to upgrade their practical skills and reduce the number of mistakes they could potentially make in their medical careers.

EdStats: Big Data, Better Policies, Learning for All

Husein Abdul-Hamid's picture

Are we effective in presenting education data to help tackle the real issues that developing countries are facing? The education community continues to be puzzled by two realities: (1) crucial data is often not available and (2) available data is often hard to digest.

Closing the Gap in Turkey: Evidence of Improved Quality and Reduced Inequality in an Expanding Education System

Naveed Hassan Naqvi's picture
Also available in: Türkçe



Turkey’s remarkable economic growth over the last decade has been a much quoted success story. One often hears that the country trebled its per capita income, and has become the 16th largest economy in the world. One hears less often that this economic growth has been inclusive, accompanied by reduced poverty and expanded access to social services in health and education. And yet even these debates on expanded social services rarely move beyond quoting the headline numbers to look at the dynamics of change in the sector(s). This omission is unfortunate because the dynamics of change in the social sectors can be a harbinger for future progress. I want to draw the reader’s attention to the unheralded progress in the education sector.

Education in Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region: Investing Early, Smartly and for All

Alberto Rodriguez's picture

The World Bank’s new Education Strategy, Learning for All, invites us to invest early, invest smartly, and invest for all. It proposes fostering a comprehensive view of education – a systems approach strengthened by a knowledge base on what works to improve education systems that can be shared amongst the global community.

Should developing countries shift from focusing on improving schools to improving parents?

Emiliana Vegas's picture

I travel to many developing countries in the context of my work for The World Bank. I visit schools that receive financial support and technical assistance from the Bank to improve the learning experiences and outcomes of students. Each time, I ask teachers in these schools what they think would make the biggest difference in the learning outcomes of their students. The most common answer is “better parents.” I often wonder if this response is, in some conscious or unconscious way, an excuse to help teachers explain the poor outcomes of their students (especially those from the poorest households) and their low expectations of what their students can achieve. However, both common sense and solid research indicate that parents matter.

Can the Private Sector Play a Helpful Role in Education? It Can, If it Targets Disadvantaged Students

Harry A. Patrinos's picture

The following piece appeared as a guest blog in the UK's Guardian this past week.

Students from Harlem Childrens' Zone with its president, Geoffrey Canada. A good public education system means public spending – but not necessarily public provision.

In OECD countries, more than 20% of public education expenditure goes to private institutions – communities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), faith-based organisations, trade unions, private companies, small informal providers and individual practitioners – and about 12% is spent on privately-managed institutions.

But does private participation mean higher quality education? Does it bring better exam results? Can it encourage greater equality?

Podcast: Can We Get All Children in School and Learning by 2020? Harvard interviews Halsey Rogers

Christine Horansky's picture

How we can make the next decade one in which all children, everywhere, are in school and learning? The World Bank's Lead Economist for education, Halsey Rogers, joins the Harvard EdCast from Washington to discuss the new Education Strategy 2020 and a global agenda for learning.

What Learning for All Means for Europe and Central Asia

Alberto Rodriguez's picture

Students attend a vocational high school in TurkeyFollowing the recent launch of the World Bank’s new Education Strategy for 2020 by President Robert Zoellick, we now turn to thinking about how the new strategy translates into action on the ground around the world. In Europe and Central Asia (ECA), how can the principles of learning for all make a difference for this rapidly transforming region?

Ce înseamnă învățământul pentru toți pentru Europa și Asia Centrală

Alberto Rodriguez's picture

Ca urmare a lansării recente a noii Strategii a Băncii Mondiale în domeniul Învățământului pentru 2020 de către Președintele Robert Zoellick, începem acum să reflectăm despre felul cum această strategie nouă va fi pusă în aplicare pe teren în toată lumea.  În Europa și Asia Centrală (EAC), cum pot principiile învățământului pentru toți să schimbe regiunea dată care se află într-o transformare rapidă?