This Development (OECD) Programme for International Student

This paper examines the education systems of Finland, South
Korea, and the United State to identify key factors in successful education systems using
data from each country. These three countries routinely perform
well on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Programme for
International Student Assessment (PISA) exams. All three countries have gone
through some form of education reform and offer very different approaches to
national education systems. Comparative research was conducted using Level 2 of the Bray and Thomas
which examines curriculum, teaching
methods, educational finance, management structure, political change, and labor
market at the nation level to determine what can be learned from each country’s
successes and how to apply these lessons to the U.S. education system as well
as globally. The
Hamburg Declaration was used to focus the research on elements of interconnectedness
and education equality for everyone.


Keywords: education, Finland, Hamburg
Declaration, South Korea, United States

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Systems-Finland, South Korea and United States of America


1990, Nelson Mandela visited Boston’s Madison Park High School after being held
as a political prisoner for 27 years in South Africa. He spoke on the importance
of education. During his speech, Mandela (1990) said, “Education is the most
powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” In 1758, Benjamin
Franklin wrote in his book The Way to
Wealth that “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” While the
words of both Mandela and Franklin were written centuries apart, they still
ring true today both suggest why understanding global education and top
performing education systems should be a top priority.

education is often seen as one of the keys to success in life and can also be a
tremendous source of power for creating positive change in the world. Education
can separate those who are successful from those who are not; it can be the
“great equalizer.”  If education creates
successful and prosperous people, examining some of the most successful
education systems in the world, namely Finland, South Korea, and the United
States (US), and conducting a comparative analysis to identify strategies used
by these educational powerhouses to produce superior performance is paramount
in building an informed, empowered and cohesive globally educated society.

is the value of performing research that compares education systems in
different countries? The idea behind global awareness is countries coming
together to understand and accept different ideologies and use those ideas to
enhance the globally society. The concept of “global education” was derived
from the term “global awareness,” which was introduced by Hanvey (1976), a
pioneer in global awareness. Global awareness is defined as “a conceptual
understanding based upon an applicable knowledge of global and cultural
perspectives (Hartmeyer & Wegimont, 2016).” Kirkwood (2001)
describes globally educated people as “those who possess high-tech skills,
broad interdisciplinary knowledge about the contemporary world, and
adaptability, flexibility, and world-mindedness to participate effectively in
the globalized world” (p. 11). Caldwell Community College and Technical
Institute defines global awareness as a conceptual understanding based upon an
applicable knowledge of global and cultural perspectives. The comprehension of
concepts that impact the world encompasses, but is not limited to,
environmental, social, cultural, political, and economic relations. Global
awareness and education are imperative because these concepts in action enable
people to be active, impassioned citizens, creating change in their communities
and the world.

aware societies position themselves to benefit from others as they compare what
is working or not working to other societies and apply them to their own society.
Education is one are that every society should seek to find best practices and
success stories.  Phillips and
Schweisfurth (2014) define comparative education as the study of any aspect of
educational phenomena in two or more different national or regional settings in
which attempts are made to draw conclusions from a systematic comparison of the
phenomena in question, “comparative education serves to combat provincialism
and ethnocentricity, to motivate study of the history and development of school
systems, and to increase awareness of the interplay between school systems and
their social and cultural environments.” 

            Several organizations are working to
promote global awareness and education. One such organization is the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), an
organization that highly promotes peace and honoring human rights. UNESCO is the
corporate author of “The Hamburg Declaration.” The Hamburg Declaration
establishes the vision of adult learning as a global and shared responsibility,
depicting education as a basic human right. The first iteration of the Hamburg
Declaration was released in January 1997 and was most recently updated in 2017
in Hamburg, Germany.

research focuses on themes 3 and 10 of The Hamburg Declaration. Theme 3
suggests the following:

“everywhere in the world, literacy
should be a gateway to fuller participation in social, cultural, political and
economic life, and literacy enables individuals to function effectively in
their societies and to fashion and shape them. It is a process in which
communities affect their own cultural and social transformations. It must
address the needs of both women and men, to enable them to understand the
interconnections between personal, local and global realities (Nesbit &
Welton, 1997, p. 16).”

10 focuses on enhancing international co-operation and solidarity because literacy
must be relevant to a person’s socio-economic and cultural contexts. Theme 10
addresses respecting diversity, embracing all aspects of life, and promotion of
a culture of peace. Both themes 3 and 10 provide guidance on how to design strong
educational systems and how to create more informed and active citizens of the
world, in which these citizens can then socially and culturally affect their
own lives through fuller participation in personal, local and global endeavors.

and literacy have a profound impact on the success of our global communities.
The world needs educated and empowered individuals who can create positive
change in the social, cultural, political, and economic life of their
communities and the world at large.  What
are the most effective ways to educate the world’s population and to create
global awareness?  If the commonly held
belief “that the more education one has, the more opportunities they are
provided” is a true statement, then comparing the educational success in Finland,
South Korea, and the US provides guidance from a global perspective on how to develop
a high-performing education systems.

purpose of this research is to compare and contrast educational success and
outcomes in Finland, South Korea, and the US. This was conducted using components
of Level 2 of the Bray and Thomas framework (Figure 1), which examines
curriculum, teaching methods, educational finance, management structure,
political change, and labor market at the nation level (Phillips &
Schweisfurth, 2014, p. 21).