As many minds wonder how to best educate America's children, educators at Plattsburgh State are inviting locals to witness a phenomenon — "The Finland Phenomenon."

A documentary by Robert Compton, "The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World's Most Surprising School System," takes a look at the education system in that country, revered as one of the planet's best.

The Plattsburgh Educators' Study Group, comprised of education faculty and staff from the college, as well as area public-school teachers, will host a special showing of the film from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. The documentary will be presented in Room 327 of Sibley Hall on Rugar Street in Plattsburgh. The event is free and open to the public.

Doug Selwyn, a professor of teacher education at Plattsburgh State and member of the Study Group, explained that while America struggles to boost its high-school graduation rate and narrow achievement gaps among its schools, Finland excels at both.

In fact, according to the film, 95 percent of Finnish students graduate high school, and schools there are uniformly successful in terms of achievement.

"Finland is recognized, at this point, as one of the most successful school systems in the world, really, based on all sorts of different measures.

"Their students are doing extremely well," Selwyn said.

TEACHERS REVERED

Selwyn said Finnish children do not begin school until age 7, and although they are assessed, students are rarely tested.

Finnish teachers are highly revered and highly trained, he said, and are given the freedom to create their own curriculums.

"There's a very different feel and expectation that they operate on in Finland," he said, "and it's much more focused on building on student interests and their passions and encouraging them to take responsibility for their learning."

While the film may be of particular interest to educators and school administrators, Selwyn believes it to be relevant to many people, including anyone with an interest in public education or the future preparedness of the American workforce.

"I think there's something for everyone because it gives us a real chance to look at our own stuff," he said.

Selwyn hopes viewers will be inspired to think about whether America's education system could benefit at all from Finland's example.

"If you have concerns or criticisms (about the American education system), then you have to be open to looking at what other people are doing," he said.

"I think there's a lot, a great deal, we do very well in education, and there are things that we don't do so well, and we can learn from others."

FINNISH GUESTS

A discussion opportunity will follow the film.

"I'm hoping, and we're hoping, that it stimulates conversation and questioning," Selwyn said.

Participating in the conversation will be three visiting Finnish musicians, Anu Isomottonen, Nikke Isomottonen and Janne Ikonenin.

"They went to Finnish school, so they'll be able to talk about their experience," Selwyn said.

The musicians will also perform two concerts with the Adirondack Wind Ensemble while in the area. The first will be at 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts and the second at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29, at E. Glenn Giltz Auditorium in Hawkins Hall in Plattsburgh.

Email Ashleigh Livingston at: alivingston@pressrepublican.com

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