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  • It's 8 a.m. on a cold morning in the suburbs of Helsinki and these primary school children are getting ready for class.

  • This morning's lessonancient history.

  • Well, they are reading with pairs, some texts about Egypt and ancient life.

  • They are reading and then I'm going to ask something, what did they find out from the book.

  • I think we all are ready now.

  • This is a school system that for years has been among the world's best.

  • And then what about this gold one?

  • And yet these kids will spend half as much time in a classroom as Australian children.

  • When you go to the first grade, when you are seven years old, the amount of hours is 20 hours a week.

  • It's the minimum and then it gets more hours the older you get.

  • But it's still less than in many countries in Europe or in the world.

  • In Finland, it's individual teachers who decide how the curriculum is taught, including how much technology should feature in their classrooms.

  • We're working on a pyramid project, for example.

  • We're now writing our names on paper with hieroglyphics and then we'll be doing some tasks from classroom.

  • Eleven-year-old, Mintu Latimarki, asks to leave class to work at the school's own student-run cafe.

  • You can go.

  • Yeah, that's okay.

  • Hello.

  • One cake for the cameraman, one cake for me, and two coffees.

  • How much is it?

  • Two euros and 60 cents.

  • How much change?

  • Two euros and 40 cents.

  • Is there a tip jar?

  • Do you have tips?

  • No.

  • No tips? Okay.

  • In Finland, school lunches, like books and excursions, are free.

  • The kids select what they want, sit down with their friends and teachers to eat, before they clean up after themselves.

  • The children rug up again to play outside.

  • Some play a raucous version of soccer, some play basketball while others wait for the hockey rink to open.

  • There are plenty of options for bad weather days too.

  • The facilities in this school are just amazing.

  • Outside we saw an ice skating rink and in here where the kids can play at lunchtime, there's a ping-pong table, a pool table.

  • And in here, for the cold winter days, they've got a room full of bean bags and couches and there's even a PlayStation in the corner.

  • It seems like it's such a rich school, you must get more money than other schools?

  • No, we don't.

  • It's the same money for everyone actually.

  • In Finland, schools are not allowed to raise private funds or to charge fees from parents.

  • All schools are equitably funded from taxation.

  • And in our system everything is free for the students actually.

  • We don't collect any money from the parents.

  • We want our schools to be equal and have equal opportunities to arrange the education.

  • So, therefore, also the finance system needs to be equal and treat equally all the schools.

  • Mintu Latimarki's older brother, Levi, is in year seven and this afternoon he's got maths.

  • We have, like the last term, chapter before we have the next exam.

  • There are regular exams in Finland but the results of these tests are not published and shared.

  • We have a national test but the big difference is we don't compare schools that this is not a good school, this is a bad school.

  • We just use the information that we evaluate ourselves.

  • But perhaps the single biggest difference in Finnish education is the standard of teaching.

  • Levi's maths teacher, Oona Arnez, speaks five languages and has postgraduate qualifications.

  • So every one of us, we have to have a master's degree to be teachers.

  • So like, for example, me, I'm maths and chemistry and physics teacher.

  • In Finland, a career as a teacher is highly sought after.

  • To enter the studies in university actually it's really hard.

  • They take something like 10 percent to study teaching.

  • If you really want to be a teacher, it can't be your second or third or I don't know what kind of option.

  • It has to be your first.

  • I believe that they know what is the best for our children.

  • I'm not a teacher, I don't have that education.

  • So we don't interfere with their work.

  • In Finland, there's little anxiety about finding the right school for your child.

  • We trust that they have very good school so we don't need to do any research work.

  • - I think that is not a question in Finland. - No, no.

  • Finland is a vastly different country with a tiny homogenous society.

  • But its education success must surely offer some lessons for Australia.

  • I would like to say that try to build the system that you trust the people.

  • And its investment in teachers seems an obvious place to begin.

  • The society respects the teachers and it means also the parents respect the teachers and they don't question the teachers.

  • And that's, in Finland that's a really huge thing.

  • Hi, I'm Leigh Sales.

  • Thanks for watching this story.

  • If you'd like to watch more of 7:30's stories, they are on the left of your screen.

  • And, tap on the button below to subscribe and get the latest from ABC News.

It's 8 a.m. on a cold morning in the suburbs of Helsinki and these primary school children are getting ready for class.

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Why Finland's schools outperform most others across the developed world | 7.30

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    Nina posted on 2020/03/02
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