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7 Ways Finland Gets Education Right

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Ever since the results from the 2000 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) revealed Finland’s educational superiority, Americans have developed something of an obsession with pointing out the differences between our pre-college education systems—how Finland is doing it all right and America is falling behind. But what exactly are the main differences that contribute to Finland’s success? 

1.Public schools get the money they need.

Unlike in the U.S., public schools in Finland aren’t competing for money. There aren’t monetary incentives for teaching directly to standardized tests, they aren’t outsourcing funding to non-profit organizations, and money is distributed fairly equally among all schools, regardless of location.

2.  It’s not easy to become a teacher.

Fresh faced college graduates aren’t being sent out to shape the minds of Finland’s children. All teachers—except kindergarteners—must complete a highly competitive Master’s program. The teacher education program is fully subsidized and more selective than both law and medical schools.

3. But being a teacher is worth it.

On average, teachers spend four hours a day in the classroom, giving them more time to plan lessons, provide students with extra help, and participate in the weekly teacher development requirements. Teachers are paid well, and even though it’s still a predominantly female profession, it’s not looked down upon or undervalued. They even get paid maternity leave.

4. No yearly standardized testing.

Students are required to take just one national standardized test and that comes at the end of general upper secondary education. Until then, teachers are in charge of incorporating assessments into lessons and fostering students’ ability to self-assess.

5. Classes are smaller.

Instead of expecting teachers to control classes of 30 or more students, classes in Finland are limited to no more than 20 students. With fewer students to monitor, teachers can ensure that students are performing at the appropriate levels before they graduate on to the next grade. If they’re not, then teachers also have the time and resources to provide them with extra guidance—including special teachers whose job it is to work with struggling students.

6. Education professionals are responsible for designing the curriculum.

The National Finnish Board of Education designs the core curriculum, but teachers and districts are able to work within the framework provided to create their own unique plan of study. Teachers are trusted to implement the necessary criteria and are not subjected to national assessments.

7. Kids get to be kids.

Younger students get more time for recess—75 minutes, not 25—and get a 15-minute break between each class. They also take classes in art and music and participate in interactive, hands-on learning. Students don’t start pre-primary education until they’re 6 years old and begin their primary education at 7.

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Animals
The Queen's Racing Pigeons Are in Danger, Due to an Increase in Peregrine Falcons
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Queen Elizabeth is famous for her love of corgis and horses, but her pet pigeons don't get as much press. The monarch owns nearly 200 racing pigeons, which she houses in a luxury loft at her country estate, Sandringham House, in Norfolk, England. But thanks to a recent boom in the region’s peregrine falcon population, the Queen’s swift birds may no longer be able to safely soar around the countryside, according to The Telegraph.

Once endangered, recent conservation efforts have boosted the peregrine falcon’s numbers. In certain parts of England, like Norfolk and the city of Salisbury in Wiltshire, the creatures can even find shelter inside boxes installed at local churches and cathedrals, which are designed to protect potential eggs.

There’s just one problem: Peregrine falcons are birds of prey, and local pigeon racers claim these nesting nooks are located along racing routes. Due to this unfortunate coincidence, some pigeons are failing to return to their owners.

Pigeon racing enthusiasts are upset, but Richard Salt of Salisbury Cathedral says it's simply a case of nature taking its course. "It's all just part of the natural process,” Salt told The Telegraph. "The peregrines came here on their own account—we didn't put a sign out saying 'room for peregrines to let.' Obviously we feel quite sorry for the pigeons, but the peregrines would be there anyway."

In the meantime, the Queen might want to keep a close eye on her birds (or hire someone who will), or consider taking advantage of Sandringham House's vast open spaces for a little indoor fly-time.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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literature
Found: A Long-Lost Copy of John Donne's Fart-Filled Satire
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Courtesy of Westminster Abbey

If you’ve studied the writings of John Donne, the 17th-century English poet and priest, you know that many of his verses are filled with sexual innuendo that's masked with religious symbols and imagery. There’s nothing subtle, however, about the socially charged work by Donne recently rediscovered in the archives of Westminster Abbey, according to The Guardian.

Found buried inside a tin trunk among hundreds of fragments of documents, the handwritten manuscript is the earliest-known copy of Donne’s The Courtier's Library. The mock library catalog satirizes Jacobean England, public figures, and religious corruption, and could have led to the writer’s downfall if it had been seen by anyone aside from his most intimate confidants.

Two pages of the handwritten manuscript by John Donne
Two pages of the handwritten manuscript by John Donne
Courtesy of Westminster Abbey

Donne wrote The Courtier’s Library—still a relatively obscure work— in the early 1600s, and this particular copy has been dated back to 1603 to 1604. While not in Donne's own handwriting, the find is important. “It gives us important new clues about the life and writing of one of our most important writers,” said Daniel Starza Smith, a lecturer in early modern English literature at King’s College London, according to a news release.

Matthew Payne, who works as the keeper of documents at Westminster Abbey, found the lost Donne manuscript in fall 2016 while perusing the tin trunk’s unsorted contents. The truck mostly contained fragments of administrative records dating back to the late medieval and early modern period, but amid the mouse-eaten papers Payne found one complete document that had no title or author listed. The work was written in Latin, and with the help of Google, Payne identified it as Donne’s Catalogus Librorum Satiricus, or The Courtier’s Library.

The tin trunk where the handwritten manuscript by John Donne was discovered at Westminster Abbey.
The tin trunk where the handwritten manuscript by John Donne was discovered.
Courtesy of Westminster Abbey

Donne wrote The Courtier’s Library when he was a young, bitter man working as a lawyer to make ends meet and support a growing family. He’d recently lost his title as the secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, England's Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, after he’d secretly marrying Egerton's niece, Anne More. More’s father, a courtier and parliament member, disapproved of the relationship, and when he learned of his daughter's union, Sir George More briefly imprisoned Donne and stripped him of his post.

Donne circulated The Courtier’s Library among his friends and patrons, but didn’t dare to print it during the reign of King James I, when anti-Catholicism was on the rise. (Donne was raised Catholic but eventually converted to Anglicanism.) In addition to poking fun at religion, it made fun of real public officials. One of the scandalous catalog’s imaginary books features "the many confessions of poisoners given to Justice Manwood, and used by him afterwards in wiping his buttocks, and in examining his evacuations.” The manuscript also contains sections called “Ars Spiritualis Inescandi Mulieres" ("The Spiritual Art of Enticing Women"), “On the Nothingness of a Fart,” and “Concerning the method of emptying the dung from Noah’s Ark.”

Nobody quite knows how the early copy of The Courtier’s Library made its way to Westminster Abbey, but experts say its rediscovery is timely, given today’s political climate. “We might think of ‘fake news’ as a modern phenomenon, but Donne saw something similar happening around him,” Smith said. “He was horrified at the corruption of truth by the powerful, greedy, and willfully ignorant, and he responded with this vicious satire, which was too dangerous to print until after his death. This discovery helps us understand how it circulated furtively among his trusted friends.”

An essay describing the find will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Review of English Studies. The manuscript itself will go on display from November 13 to November 18 in St Margaret’s Church, which is next door to Westminster Abbey.

[h/t The Guardian]

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