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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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Toby Melville/AFP/Getty Images
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History
New Documentary Reveals the Surprising Place the Queen's Crown Jewels Were Hidden During WWII
Toby Melville/AFP/Getty Images
Toby Melville/AFP/Getty Images

Today, the Queen of the United Kingdom's Crown Jewels are safeguarded in the Tower of London’s Jewel House, under the watch of armed guards. But during World War II, select gems from the priceless collection were stored in a biscuit tin and buried on Windsor Castle’s grounds, according to Business Insider.

The unorthodox hiding place was recently revealed in a new BBC documentary, The Coronation, which looks back on Queen Elizabeth II’s rise to the throne in 1953. British news commentator Alastair Bruce, who interviews the Queen in the hour-long special, says he stumbled across the story while perusing once-confidential letters between royal librarian Sir Owen Morshead and Queen Mary, the mother of King George VI and grandmother of Queen Elizabeth.

Fearing that the Nazis would seize the royal jewels, George VI ordered the treasure-filled tin to be buried underneath a secret emergency castle exit. The jewels—including the Black Prince's Ruby and St. Edward's Sapphire, both taken from the Imperial State Crown—were accessible only through a trapdoor.

The freshly tilled earth was a chalky white. To avoid notice from the German Luftwaffe, tarps were used to conceal the dug-up grounds at night. The Nazis weren’t the only ones left in the dark: Princess Elizabeth, then 14 years old, had no idea where the gems were buried, although she did know they’d been hidden at Windsor.

This story—along with other musings on royalty from Queen Elizabeth—is shared in The Coronation, which airs on the Smithsonian Channel on January 14.

[h/t Business Insider]

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Laima Gūtmane, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Construction Workers Discover World War II–Era German Burial Ground in Estonia
A German military cemetery in Estonia
A German military cemetery in Estonia
Laima Gūtmane, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Around 35,000 German soldiers died in Estonia during World War II while fighting Soviet troops, according to the German War Graves Association. To this day, construction workers still occasionally find their graves. While building a memorial to victims of communism in a park near Estonia's capital city of Tallinn, laborers recently discovered the remains of around 100 German soldiers, Deutsche Welle reports.

The bodies were buried separately instead of in a mass grave. Experts think the burial ground is part of a German military cemetery, and say it's unclear whether more bodies remain to be found. Archaeologists will survey the area before construction resumes, and the deceased soldiers will be reburied at an already established German cemetery nearby, according to Estonian broadcasting unit ERR.

The communist Soviet Union absorbed the Baltic countries during the war, but they were also periodically occupied by Nazi Germany. Decades later, in 1995, Estonia and Germany signed an agreement that allowed the latter country to restore and operate war cemeteries and memorials in Estonia commemorating their fallen soldiers.

Twelve German cemeteries exist today in Estonia (the one in the above image is located in Narva), but reburial efforts are still likely far from over: Between 3000 and 4000 German soldiers were interred around Tallinn alone, the BBC notes, and an additional 10,000 or so prisoners of war also died in labor camps during the war, in addition to soldiers killed on Estonian territory. Many of these graves were either unmarked or destroyed, according to the German War Graves Association.

[h/t Deutsche Welle]

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