Monday, March 12, 2012

Pasi Sahlberg on Equity and Education in Finland

In January 2012, Finnish educator and author Pasi Sahlberg visited Stanford University to discuss his recent book, Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?, and participate in a conference on the U.S. and Finnish education systems. After the lecture, he sat down with us to talk about the policies and practices behind the so-called "Finnish miracle" and the central role of equity in Finland's school reform.

(Source: Scope - Stanford Center for opportunity Policy in Education -

Editor's note:

This is a fine presentation in ten short minutes accomplished with great modesty and clarity. Finland's dazzling educational reforms and the central role of creativity, modesty and equity from the very beginning have served as a major inspiration for the present project.  We know that we all have a great deal to learn from their pioneering experience, and perhaps even more from the human values that they somehow figured out and put at the center of their reforms.

Which leaves us with the following big question.  Namely, how can we best build on this  approach and accomplishment in other areas of society? And specifically when it comes to mobility in our daily lives, Equitable Mobility?

My guess that we are just getting started with this new vector. and that equity will in fairly short time make itself known as the 21st century version of The Wealth of Nations.  Equity is likely to become the critical metric of values and reforms at virtually all levels of society and the economy.

Stay tuned.


Reader comments:

Submitted on 2013/03/16 at 14:38  Where are We Going and Why? – by Hargreaves and Sahlberg | 3D Eye

This brilliant article by Hargreaves and Sahlberg of March 14, 2013 follows on Pasi's fine presentation here, but looks at the self-blinding processes that continue to dominate policy and practice in terms of children's education/reform in many parts of the world. (They are not kind with their remarks of reactionary policies and practices in the UK and the US, but there are valuable lessons for us in that as well.)

The full text of the article is available at

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John Niles (@JN_Seattle) Submitted on 2012/07/18 at 09:11

Thought experiment — suppose personal motor cars in a future world were smaller, lighter, safer, non-emitting, oil-free, recyclable when worn out, universally affordable (in the sense that bicycles are today), rarely crashed or hit pedestrians, got stuck in traffic rarely, still traveled on ordinary roads, and maneuvered in traffic as needed largely without driver intervention except to specify the destination. Would we still need to vigorously pursue a cars vs all-the-better-things paradigm? Suppose in this imaginary world there were still horizontal and vertical motorized people movers (trains, trams, elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks, cable cars, and water ferries) for dense environments, and ways for all those cars to park themselves very tightly. Bicycles, big buses, and big trucks have their own roads for the most part.

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Robert Stussi. Submitted on 2012/03/15 at 20:22

5 questions concerning transport and equity

difficult.. (but since y have many peers, you will get a lot of questions)

first, we have to remember that the underprivileged suffer already a lot (more than we could imagine) because in trying to obtain what for the normal (let alone the privileged) is current, they have to make a terrible effort (wheelchair is a good example: even in advanced societies, where much is done for them, they still have a much more complicated life, besides having often to get in by the backdoor of side door (take it symbolic, not figurative) , since the main door was not suitable to be adapted for them..)

so it is a sinus curve, and we might try to flatten a bit the negative curve (theirs, the unfortunate’ ones) which of course statistically only can be achieved if we flatten also the positive sinuses – that means taking from the privileged.. and since that is next to impossible, all stays at it is, usually

Therefore one question could be: do we (who is we? of course mostly “the others”) really want to change (towards an equitable transport system) ….

and looking for equity, maybe we should first look away from our navel (and group(s) / classes we belong to)… do we really see what the non equitable people/groups are going through (the poor are conveniently out of sight, except in touristic zones (and many poor are too proud to show their plight – that is why even in rural china a wedding costs a fortune), and the poor millionaires.. suffering from all that richness are out in Miami and Las Vegas..)

so another question (not really a question, but a it should be a paradigm): going towards an equitable transport system (any system) we should strat with ourselves

it seems to me that equity has nothing to do with being equal (a concept itself impossible to measure, even imagine how to “measure”)
equity can be of very different “size and quality”, all is relative….in a rural area, people might be used to do a lot of walking and a bicycle could be a big upgrading, in high density supply conditions, people might be very upset about a 2 minute delay of a metro (let alone a massing train..),
but then, there are minimums and maximums, and even they are relative (the only common minimum might be that we were born, the maximum is we will die..)

so the question (paradigm again) equity is relative

who is aware, observing equity questions? it is more and more a hype question (the elderly, the kids, the mobility reduced); many transport systems invest quite a bit; others say that a metro driver helping a wheelchair to enter a metro delays and makes the transport system (always the dammed system) less efficient.. that are the system efficiency believers, our worst enemies (they are always right, cannot be touched); I adore the NY buses, where the driver gets out of his seat, walks around the bus, opens the wheelchair ramp and wheels in a wheelchair, not preoccupied about time schedules and the honking; so they are the militants a good working “system” needs (surprisingly the unions were not against this, saying it was not included in the work agreements); I once almost lost a bus, helping to elderly alight, for which I had to step out (her the bus driver would not bother to leave his seat)…

therefore another question could be: to achieve equitable transport we have to break the system and be ourselves – each of us, first an observer/recognizer, then a militant

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eb-abount the editor - 15mar13 - wider

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