Education Lessons From Top-Ranked Finland And South Korea

Finland and South Korea top the charts in a new global education ranking. But with very different philosophies. We’re looking at what the US – ranked number 17 – can learn.

Yaeum Middle School (Flickr/Stephen Hucker)

Yaeum Middle School (Flickr/Stephen Hucker)

Countries number one and two in the world in the latest global ranking of student academic performance:  Finland and South Korea.  The U.S. ranked number seventeen, down with Hungary and Slovakia.

We know we can do better, but the interesting thing about the top-ranking two is how very differently they achieve success.

South Korea, super-intense.  School all the time.  Finland, strikingly laid back.  Teachers called by their first names.  And yet they both pin the needle on outcomes.

This hour, On Point:  two different paths to the very top in education, and what the U.S. can learn.

-Tom Ashbrook


Pasi Sahlberg, director general of the Center for International Mobility and Cooperation in Helsinki, Finland. Author of “Finnish Lessons: What Can The World Learn From Educational Change in Finland?” (@pasi_sahlberg)

Okhwa Lee, professor of computer education at Chungbuk National University in South Korea. She participated in the South Korean presidential committee, “Educational Innovation: Vision 2030.”

Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, which studies what the U.S. can learn from international models.

From Tom’s Reading List

Pasi Sahlberg “As the United States is looking to reform its public school system, education experts have increasingly looked at other countries for examples on what works and what won’t. The current administration has turned its attention strong performing foreign school systems. As a consequence, recent education summits hosted in the United States have given room to international education showcases.”

The Huffington Post “The study notes that while funding is an important factor in strong education systems, cultures supportive of learning is even more critical — as evidenced by the highly ranked Asian countries, where education is highly valued and parents have grand expectation. While Finland and South Korea differ greatly in methods of teaching and learning, they hold the top spots because of a shared social belief in the importance of education and its ‘underlying moral purpose.'”

The Atlantic “Here’s what everybody knows about education in the United States. It’s broken. It’s failing our poorest students and codding the richest. Americans are falling desperately behind the rest of the developed world. But here’s what a new study from the Economic Policy Institute tells us about America’s education system: Every one of those common assumptions is simplistic, misguided, or downright wrong.”

Film: “The Finland Phenomenon”


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