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Pasi Sahlberg, the eminent Finnish scholar, writes here about why there is no Teach for Finland and why Finland is not a model for Teach for America. In his travels, he has heard people say that TFA is like Finland, because both recruit “the best and the brightest.” Sahlberg explains why this is not the case. While it is true that would-be teachers are carefully selected, those who are selected must meet a number of criteria, including a readiness and intention to make teaching a lifelong career.
Once they are admitted to a teacher education program at the end of their secondary schooling, future teachers must engage in a rigorous program of study:
All teachers in Finland must hold a master’s degree either in education (primary school teachers) or in subjects that they teach (lower- and upper-secondary school teachers). Primary school teachers in Finland go through rigorous academic education that normally lasts five to six years and can only be done in one of the research universities that offer teacher education degrees. This advanced academic program includes modules on pedagogy, psychology, neuroscience, curriculum theories, assessment methods, research methods and clinical practical training in teacher training school attached to the university. Subject teachers complete advanced academic studies in their field and combine that with an additional year of an educational program. This approach differs dramatically from the one employed by TFA, requiring only five or six weeks of summer training for college graduates, with limited clinical training in the practice of teaching.
As Sahlberg explains, teaching in Finland is a profession, and no one would be allowed to teach based solely on having high grades, high test scores, and going to an elite university. There are high standards for entry into the teacher education program and high standards for entry into the classroom as a professional. Consequently, teaching in Finland is a prestigious career. And that is why Finland does not have Teach for Finland.