Part 3 of 3.  Finland.  An education superpower.

What…is…their… secret?!

Well, in case you haven’t been following along the past couple of weeks, let me quickly catch you up.

Finland.  They’ve been rockstars in the world of education.  Inquiring minds want to know exactly what can be attributed to their success.

Cue misinformation.

Take a look at this, which I came across this past week on LinkedIn:

The springboard for this series of posts on Finland’s schools has been Gabriel Dahlgren’s Real Finnish Lessons.  Admittedly, I did not read the book, but I did watch the interview.

You can check out last week’s post to read about some of the misperceptions of Finnish schools, as conveyed by Dahlgren, but let me cut to the chase.

The one characteristic that Dahlgren attributes to most likely fueling Finland’s success is…

Can you guess it?

Here it is…



Sorry, that’s Finnish.  The English word that most closely relates to it (from my understanding, there is not an exact translation)?


Yes, grit.  I hope that’s not anticlimactic for you.  Sure, it’s not flashy like fancy technology, new-age teaching methods, paying teachers like doctors (which is not true by the way), and so on.

But grit is tried and true.

You see, according to Dahlgren, out of Finland’s struggle to become an autonomous region of Russia, grew the cultural value of sisu (or grit).

Grit embedded itself in the Finnish culture as the culture sought nationalism.

And as cliche as this may seem, HARD WORK PAYS OFF.

And that’s really what grit is all about.

But what about Finland’s recent decline in academic performance?

Well, Dahlgren believes that the culture has perhaps “caught up” to Finland’s level of economic development.  In other words, once a culture is doing well, it tends to relax.

Isn’t this indicative of human nature though?

Now to be clear, and fair to Dahlgren, he recognizes that this is all pretty much conjecture, that you can’t really quantify the cultural impact.  Or for that matter, you can’t really quantify the impact of a cultural shift.

Ultimately, Dahlgren concludes, as stated last week, looking at a country and attributing a characteristic as direct evidence linked to their success is futile.

Although not a country per se, there is a culture that does do well wherever they are – Asians.

Next week, we’ll take a look at this.  Some questions to ponder until then:

Successful and happy vs. doing well on a test.

Question 1: Is there a correlation?

Question 2: Is there a trade-off?

Question 3: What do we want our schools to look like?

Think about it, and feel free to join in on the discussion!