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“If the purpose of life is to score well on a test, we’ve lost sight of the real reason for learning.”
Lately, Finland has been getting a lot of attention because of its unorthodox yet highly effective educational system. It’s consistently one of the highest performing developed countries on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), beating big countries like USA! Interestingly, Finland’s surprising success is not attributed to heaps of homework or regular testing. It’s actually the opposite.
Unlike USA that requires students in third through eighth grade to take annual standardized tests, Finland has what they call the National Matriculation Examination, which is taken only at the end of high school. More interestingly, their examination doesn’t shy away from complex, real life questions such as “In what sense are happiness, good life and well-being ethical concepts?” And of course, it’s graded by teachers, not computers!
Finnish educators believe that less testing equals more learning. Without the unnecessary pressure of high stakes tests, students are motivated to learn intrinsically. It’s for this reason that test-based accountability has its critics saying that “a heavy reliance on testing distorts instruction and undermines authentic learning.” More and more people are concerned that using tests as motivation for students may devalue learning and discourage those who are falling behind.
Schools should be more than a venue for testing skills and knowledge. Andreas Schleicher, Divison Head and coordinator of the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment, insightfully remarked, “The test of truth in life is not whether we can remember what we learned in school, but whether we are prepared for change.”