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Finland's secret to success in education: treating teachers as professionals

Finland's secret to success in education: treating teachers as professionals
A teacherworks with seventh-grade students at a school in Helsinki, Finlandin 2011. (Erin Richards / MCT)

To the editor: William Doyle's piece on quality schools should be required reading for all the publishers, pundits and politicians who now determine how our nation's schools should be run. To understand the breadth of Finland's renaissance in education, one must consider how the Finns get "good teachers" into the classroom. ("Why Finland has the best schools," Opinion, March 18)

First, they select the top 10% of high school graduates and pay their way through six years of preparation. Would-be teachers are placed in classrooms for two years before going on their own.

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Teachers are allowed the opportunity to make collaborative and substantive changes in both what and how they teach. The principals of the schools are trained educational experts, not the public relations person in the office and the discipline officer of the school. Teachers are required to continually hone their skills, aided by an evaluation system refined by the principal and the teacher.

Finland decided to professionalize education — to view all educators not as employees, but as professional educators. Sadly, most Americans still believe that it is the teacher's "job" to teach.

Bob Bruesch, Rosemead

The writer, a teacher, is a member of the Garvey School District Board of Education.

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To the editor: When discussing the quality of Finnish elementary school education, it would have been informative for the author to comment on the 16 other hours in a day when the children are not in school.

Were the children put to bed in time to get enough sleep before school started? Were they given a place to study free of distractions like TV and cellphones? Were they fed breakfast in the morning before school?

This is all part of respect for "the most trusted and admired professionals next to doctors."

David Vandervoet, Los Alamitos

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To the editor: Doyle's depiction of the wonder that is the Finnish school system provides a context that further validates my conviction formed in part by my 36 years as an inner-city high school teacher in L.A. County: American public schools, at least in the inner city, probably constitute a protracted program of aggravated child abuse, perhaps more serious in its long-term consequences than the use of illicit drugs.

Paul L. DuNard Jr., Cypress

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