Students enter the Kirkkojärvi School in Espoo, Finland. The school is among those featured in an exhibit that highlights the country's move away from factory-style schools to contemporary campuses built to meet the pedagogical and social needs of their students and teachers.
Education watchers have dissected Finland’s educational leadership on international tests from practically every angle, but a new traveling exhibit at that nation’s embassy here suggests one more: that the buildings themselves support student achievement.
Finnish students consistently have placed among the top countries on the Program for International Student Assessment, which gauges 15-year-old students’ ability to understand and transfer concepts in reading, mathematics, and science. For example, in the most recent mathematics assessment, in 2009, Finnish students scored 54 points higher than their American peers on a scale of zero to 1,000. Pasi Sahlberg, the director general of the Center for International Mobility and Cooperation at Finland’s education ministry, attributes the nation’s academic achievement to a three-fold approach: quality of the academic curriculum, equity in educational access, “and the third one is the environment. How the environment and design of the school is supporting students’ learning. When we combine these three things we can say something about the overall goodness of the school system.”