[ExI] How PISA surveys systematically overestimate Finland

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Fri Nov 9 08:44:28 UTC 2012

On Fri, Nov 9, 2012 at 1:48 AM, Aleksei Riikonen  wrote:
> Yes, you are right, our school system here in Finland is very similar
> to the other Nordic countries, and actually it has been shown that
> PISA surveys systematically overestimate the quality of Finnish
> schools, though for some reason I've never seen this rather conclusive
> analysis discussed anywhere in mainstream media, either here in
> Finland or elsewhere:
> http://finnish-and-pisa.blogspot.fi/
> It boils down to the Finnish language having certain properties which
> cause the questions in PISA surveys to be easier when phrased in
> Finnish.

It is fascinating speculation, but comparing countries systems of
education is a very complex process. As indeed, comparing health
stats, or 'quality of life'.
What about Chinese education, where they have to learn thousands of
ideograms? They are regarded as the best in the world. Ambition,
determination to succeed, parental support and excellent teachers seem
to be significant.

As well as language, Finnish society has some unique characteristics.
Finland has one of the lowest rates of poverty in the world, an
education and reading centered culture and very involved parents.
About 30% of Finland's students can read before starting school.
Another 43% have basic reading skills already in place. Finnish
schools quickly intervene when students start to fall behind. They
provide a lot of tutoring to help students catch up.
Finnish teachers are highly respected. Their status level is similar
to that of doctors. Only 10% of all applicants for teacher training
programs are accepted each year. So, Finland can easily choose the
best and brightest to enter teaching. And their teacher training
program is excellent.

PISA stats include all schools. So if a nation has a mixture of good
and bad schools it will have a lower average grade. Systems like those
in Finland try to ensure that there are no 'bad' schools to lower
their average.

So I am not convinced by the language argument. It may be a factor,
but I think the society ambitions and the system are more important.
If the nation has a drive to get educated and succeed, it will do


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