Finnish teenagers are among the smartest in the world. They earned some of the top scores by 15-year-old students who were tested in 57 countries. American teens finished among the world's C students even as U.S. educators piled on more homework, standards and rules.
Finnish teachers pick books and customize lessons as they shape students to national standards. "In most countries, education feels like a car factory. In Finland, the teachers are the entrepreneurs," says Mr. Schleicher, of the Paris-based OECD, which began the international student test in 2000. One explanation for the Finns' success is their love of reading.
Another key idea comes out when a Finn student discusses her foreign exchange experience in an American school: "The rare essay question, she says, allowed very little space in which to write." The article doesn't oversimplify the differences in the two nation's education system, but I still couldn't help but notice that a curriculum that fosters reading and writing produces successful results.