Excellent leadership behind the success of the Finnish school


The Finnish school and education system is considered one of the best in the world. The Finnish way of running a school has many practices based on research and everyday experience that can help improve school leadership also outside Finland.  

In Finland, schoolwork and teaching development are based on common values described in the National Basic Education Core Curriculum. They tell us what’s important in a Finnish school. However, it is not enough that values influence teaching and learning. They must also be taken into account in school leadership and in the activities of the principal.  

One of the strong foundations of leadership in Finland is the Finnish principal training. The theoretical framework is generally based on broad pedagogical leadership, consisting of technical, pedagogical, human resources, symbolic and cultural leadership. Technical, pedagogical, and human resource leadership are the principal’s day-to-day leadership activities, which demonstrate what is important and valued in the school. The symbolic and cultural aspects of school leadership include the meanings given by the teaching staff to the principal's daily leadership and the network of these meanings, i.e., the school's leadership culture. When, in addition to the principal's day-to-day leadership, the school's leadership culture supports teaching and student’s learning, the principal can be said to have performed his or her role excellently. 

In many countries, educational reforms have failed because reforms and in-service training programs are aimed only at teachers, while principals and other educational leaders have been neglected. While trained teachers with new skills have returned to work in their own schools, the principals have continued to lead in line with previous models. In a short time, this has stifled new learning, and schooling has quickly returned to its former habits.  

The growing interest in Finnish schools has led many education professionals - teachers, principals and educational administrators from all over the world – to come to Finland every year to learn more about Finnish schools and school leadership.  

In our new book, Educational Leadership, we have compiled theory and good practices on school leadership, and in doing so, we have played our part in supporting principals, vice-principals, and school leadership team members to develop their schools and themselves from competence to excellence in their work. 

Tapio Lahtero and Mikko Salonen

Tapio Lahtero, PhD., Adjunct Professor of educational leadership, the Director of the Teacher Training Schools of the University of Helsinki, and the Director of the Principal Training Program at the University of Helsinki.

Mikko Salonen, MA (Ed.) works at Konsulttipaja Ltd as a consulting partner in educational leadership projects both in Finland and abroad. He has previously served as a principal for 20 years.



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