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The Cult of Finland: What American Schools CAN’T Learn From International Comparisons

The 74 Million – Matt Barnum

“Tuesday’s release of the PISA results — an international test of high schoolers — will almost undoubtedly prompt endless discussion of a mythical educational utopia, where kindergartners are “joyful and illiterate,” where there are no big, bad charter schools or high-stakes testing, where schools are virtually all equal — and where those same test scores are through the roof. It is called Finland, and many a journalist, policymaker, union leader and education researcher yearns to dwell in this K-12 Lake Wobegon whose virtues are lauded regularly on the pages of high-profile publications and whose methods are praised assiduously during panel discussions at serious conferences. Finland’s education system is sometimes described as a “miracle.”(more)

Sedentary lifestyle may impair academic performance in boys

Medical X-Press – Staff Writer

“A sedentary lifestyle is linked to poorer reading skills in the first three school years in 6-8 year old boys, according to a new study from Finland. The study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland in collaboration with the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Cambridge was recently published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. “Low levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and high levels of sedentary time in Grade 1 were related to better reading skills in Grades 1-3 among boys. We also observed that boys who had a combination of low levels of physical activity and high levels of sedentary time had the poorest reading skills through Grades 1-3,” explains Eero Haapala, PhD, from the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyväskylä.”(more)

Children’s literacy linked to healthy eating

Nursery World – Kathryn Ingham

“The research published in the European Journal of Nutrition, followed 161 children in Finland aged between six and eight. The quality of their diet was analysed using food diaries and evaluated according to Finnish nutritional recommendations. The closer a child’s eating habits were to the Baltic Sea Diet – high in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, fish and low fat milk, and low in sugar, saturated fats and red meat – the healthier it was considered. The study shows that children with higher quality diets perform better in standardised tests measuring reading, fluency and comprehension, when compared to children whose diets are low in nutritional value.”(more)

Kindergarten, Naturally

The Atlantic – Timothy D. Walker

““To the brook! To the brook!” the three girls chanted in Finnish as they skipped through the forest. Within a few minutes, the other kindergartners had joined them in the fern-covered gully. As their teacher Kaija Pelo and I stood on a hill observing the children at play below us, two boys in baseball caps poked sticks into the brook (Pelo said they were “fishing”) while other children teetered across a fallen pine tree, which served as a natural bridge over the running water. Most kindergartners, though, appeared to be doing nothing except wandering along the length of the brook. For these 5- and 6-year-olds, this forest is their kindergarten classroom—nearly 80 percent of the time. Four days a week, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Finland’s required amount of daily kindergarten instruction), this group of 14 children is outside with their veteran teacher and two classroom aides. In Finland, this is not a typical kindergarten setting (only a handful of forest kindergartens exist in this Nordic country), but in Europe, such places have been popular for decades.”(more)

Healthy diet boosts children’s reading skills

Medical X-Press – Staff Writer

“A heathy diet is linked to better reading skills in the first three school years, shows a recent study from Finland. Published in the European Journal of Nutrition, the study constitutes part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland and the First Steps Study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä. The study involved 161 children aged 6-8 years old, and followed up on them from the first grade to the third grade in school. The quality of their diet was analysed using food diaries, and their academic skills with the help of standardised tests. The closer the diet followed the Baltic Sea Diet and Finnish nutrition recommendations – i.e. high in vegetables, fruit and berries, fish, whole grain, and unsaturated fats and low in red meat, sugary products, and saturated fat – the healthier it was considered.”(more)

Children need three hours exercise a day – Finland

BBC – Staff Writer

“Children should spend at least three hours a day performing physical activities, according to the Finnish government. Parents have been advised to actively encourage their children to pursue hobbies and interests that require physical exertion. Children aged eight and under have been targeted in the move. Finland is known for producing some of the most physically fit children in Europe. It also produces some of the highest academic results among schoolchildren in the developed world.”(more)