ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Finland Case Against Early Learning

Updated on August 8, 2017

Finland is often used as a case against early learning because it's one of the top scorers on the OECD's PISA test. The PISA test is taken every three years and covers math, reading and science.

Finnish students don't start formal education until the age of 7. Most do attend a four year preschool, which doesn't teach academics like math and reading. An argument is made that Finland's students start school later but catch up with their peers in other countries who start at 4, 5 or 6. Does this indicate that later learning is superior to early learning?

Reasons for Finland's Success

It's highly unlikely that entering school later is a factor in Finland's success. After all, students in Bulgaria also start formal education at the age of 7. Bulgaria scores close to the bottom on the PISA test.

Finland is successful academically for several reasons:

  • It has one of the lowest rates of poverty in the world
  • It has a very education and reading centered culture
  • Finland produces more children's books than any other nation
  • According to a Finnish study, 30% of Finland's students can read before starting school. Another 43% are considered to be emergent readers
  • Finnish preschools focus on teaching knowledge
  • Parents are very involved in the education of their children
  • Successful students in Finland work with struggling students to help them catch up
  • Finnish schools intervene when students start to fall behind
  • Amost half of Finnish adults have a four year college degree versus one quarter in the United States

Finland isn't successful because it's students start later. It's successful because knowledge, education and learning is valued. It's successful because it has low rates of poverty. It's successful because many parents have college degrees. Finnish children most likely begin their formal education with a huge knowledge advantage over peers in other countries.

Young children can be taught academics in fun and creative ways.
Young children can be taught academics in fun and creative ways.

The Case for Early Learning

Finland and Bulgaria both begin formal education at age 7 but their outcomes are very different. Many studies have found that early learning has huge advantages. Children who have engaged in early learning maintain an advantage over later learning peers.

Dolores Durkin studied preschool readers in 1960s. She found that preschool readers maintained an advantage over later readers. These early readers did better on reading tests and were a couple of grade levels ahead of later reading peers.

A French study looked at the performance of disadvantaged children at the 5th grade level. French preschools tend to put a lot of focus on early academics. Students who started preschool at the age of 2 were ahead of those who started at 3. They were ahead of students who started at 4. Finally children who started at 4 were ahead of those who started at age 5. There would obviously be a big difference in academic performance between children who started at 2 versus those who started at 5. Of course, there may be nonacademic explanations for some of the future difference in academic performance. Needless to say, a later start in school proved to be a big disadvantage at the 5th grade level.

Critics of early learning need to be very careful. Their arguments have the potential to negatively impact the outcomes of millions of children. If they're going to make a case against early learning, it should be based on solid evidence. In all of the arguments, I've read against early learning, I've never seen solid evidence that later learners outperform earlier learning peers. What I see is simplistic arguments like look at Finland.

I do agree with these critics that putting pressure on young children to learn is probably harmful. I'm a big believer in pressure free early learning. Small children should not be forced to do something they don't want to do. But young children can be taught a huge amount without pressure or frustration. Critics of early learning make the mistake of assuming that early learning must require harmful pressure. It doesn't. But early learning can and does reduce the risk of academic failure later on. For that alone, it should be done.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)