Reflection: Finland Does It Again!

What’s in that water in Finland?  First they abolish standardized, summative, high stakes testing —and come out in the top 5 in all numeracy and literacy categories on the PISA OECD tests.


Now, they are getting rid of subjects in schools:

The subjects we now use to organize the disciplines, fields, professional schools, methods, tools, and all the other silos of higher education were almost all designed in the same period, 1865-1925, where the American research university was developed from the Puritan college.   Now, most of the interesting scholarship occurs across and between disciplines, either by one person mastering the knowledge-assumptions and methods and contents of multiple fields or by collaborations across fields.

The redundant administrative structures we build in our university are often ways of making spans across areas where some members of each department talk to some members of other departments in a coherent, consistent, and productive way.  I think that is a good thing.

But there is a problem when graduate student training happens according to the content, rules, methods, tools, practices and prejudices of one of those departments, even when ideas, rules, methods, tools, practices, and prejudices flow–in their intellectual centers and motivations–across multiple realms.

Finland is our role model here for K-12.   We’re hoping the Futures Initiative is a different kind of role model for a new way of graduate training, within and across, around and about the silos.  But let’s think about what it would mean if we were designing higher ed from scratch and didn’t need such workarounds!