Finland can claim to have one of the best education systems in Europe, if not the world. In the most recent PISA international comparisons, in 2003, the country came top in all three areas assessed: maths, reading and science.
Perhaps most impressive, Finland has achieved success across the board. On average, there is a less than five per cent variation in performance between different schools, and variations between rural and urban areas are minimal. Moreover, the performance of the lowest-achieving students is comparatively high. Finland does not suffer from an "educational underclass" in the way some European countries do.
The influence of family background on educational outcomes is less marked in Finland than in any other OECD country, except Iceland. This has reduced competition between schools, as most parents trust …