(Apila Library, Seinäjoki, 2012. Credit: Tuomas Uusheimo from https://www.cnn.com/style/article/finland-mind-building-libraries-venice-biennale/index.html)
Finland has one of the best education systems. Many reasons are cited. No homework, more emphasis on collaboration, less on competition, shorter time in school, more time outdoors, focus on the needs of the individual and high value placed on the educators. The many decade experiment to improve its national education system continues to work despite the conventional focus of the measures used like the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).
But there are often other factors that play into these kinds of seismic shifts in a culture. The whole system contributes to success-the role of parents, government, corporations. I suspect part of this system is the high value placed on libraries! What libraries? These are a dying breed. Libraries are closing everywhere or at least losing many of their books.
More than 478 libraries have closed in England since 2010 according to the Guardian, in December 2017. Small towns in North America struggle to keep facilities open and with books on the shelves. In Canada, many elementary schools are reducing the number of books available, have no librarians and convert their libraries to tech centers.
In contrast, a recent article about the 2018 Venice Biennale Architecture Show, with its theme this year on Freespace features stunning new Finnish libraries. “Is there any other nation that loves its libraries as much as Finland? In 2016, the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture revealed that nearly 2 million of its 5.5 million citizens were book borrowers, making 49 million library visits and borrowing more than 68 million books a year.” Stated in a recent CNN article.
’Education for all is a principle of Finnish culture and libraries have always played an important part in that thinking. Learning together and active citizenship are at the core of Finnish life,’ commissioner Hanna Harris, director of ArchInfo Finland said in a phone interview…While Mind-Building (exhibit in Venice) focuses on the architectural finesse of Finnish libraries, it also explores how the facilities serve communities emotionally…Harris.. used the words “pride” and “dignity” when describing the Finns’ relationships to these buildings. That they remain used and loved by the communities for which they were originally built is the greatest proof of their architectural quality.
Hmmm, maybe there is a connection between successful education and the cultural support for beautiful stunning libraries. Parents, politicians, and all of us have much to learn from Finland’s educational successes, but don’t limit our examination to their schools. Look at the value these citizens place on libraries to replicate success for students. On your way home from work, or school, go out right now, visit your local library, better yet do it with a child.
PS Check out the rest of the article. There is likely even more about the Finnish culture and their libraries that contributes to the success of their education system