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Respect for teachers

Published March 17, 2012 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The recently-adjourned Legislature effectively protected Utah's ranking of 50th in state education spending per student. Even a sensible proposal to reduce huge class sizes in the critical years from kindergarten to third grade died.

Effectively dealing with school problems will require fundamental societal changes. Too many adhere to the old adage, "If you can, do; if you can't, teach." It is not merely a problem of inadequate pay for teachers, but a lack of respect for the profession.

We have a lot to learn from Finland. Only the top 10 percent of applicants for the required master's program in education are accepted. Teachers have the same status as doctors and lawyers. My cousin, a retired high school teacher, was viewed as a community leader by virtue of her position.

Finnish students routinely score near or at the top of the PISA test given to 15-year-olds in many countries, and 93 percent of them graduate high school.

It is a myth that these achievements are the result of a homogeneous society. Students in Finland's 4 percent immigrant population perform equally well because they are provided with special assistance, including help with the very difficult Finnish language.

Ole R. Holsti

Salt Lake City