For the last 10 years Finland has been one of the leading countries in education, what comes to PISA results. Last year Asia went by. Shanghai did excellent results. Also Korea. Many of us Finns, and many others too, thought: "Ok. They do first 8 hours public school, then 3-4 hours private school, then the homework for a few hours and then sleep for 8 hours and it starts again from the beginning." Part of this might be true. But it doesn't explain the whole thing.
I spent my Thursday and Friday at the National Leadership Forum on Education. One of the most interesting presentations was by Andreas Schleicher, an OECD Head of the Indications and Analysis Division. His presentation was "Strong performers and succesful reformers - education for the 21st century."
I'll give you just a few examples he raised.
Poland had approx. 400 000 university/college graduates/year in the year 2000. They raised the amount to 2 000 000 by the year 2010. What they did differently?
In the year 2000 and before they focused on the best performers. After that they started to focus on the public education and all of the students, not just the best. In ten years they had excellent results. They had 5 times more university graduates!
Shanghai didn't change the culture. They didn't change the education. Nor the teachers or principals. They CHANGED the way they look at the system. They made the better performing schools help the less good performing schools. They created co-operation, shared wisdom.
There is a risk of being arrogant in Finland. We know, how we got here. But do we really know now, how we keep our position? Are we courageous enough to do the reforms or innovations needed, to be on the top also in the year 2020?