On the outskirts of Helsinki, the Ronnies are getting ready for school. Buluhmas and Tina have four children. Three of this hungry bunch are all educated at the local state school. For the girls, it's a short walkway. Torpparinmaki Comprehensive is a secondary and primary school rolled into one. The first lesson about schooling in Finland is relax. Take your shoes off when you arrive. And when you get into the classroom, call your teachers by their first name.
This is Marijaana, and because her pupils stayed at the same school for so many years, she's been their teacher for most of their school life.
I'm like growing up with my children...my students, and I see the problems what they probably have when they are small, when they come to school. And now, after five years, I still know, and I still see what has happened in their youth, what is the best thing, what they can do. I tell them that I'm their school mother.
Learning foreign languages here is seen as key. For these eleven-year-olds, French is not their second, but their third language, and when they are thirteen, some will speak a fourth. But in Finland, success is not measured by winners and losers. Learning is more like a team game. The best thing was pupils in any subjects are taught together, controversial maybe, but something they say works.
It's very important to have uh...everyone in the same class, but of course that creates the problem every now and then, because that...there are some that are really really fluent in English. They are fluent in English; they're very good, and then there are some that need...need special attention, but of course we try to give that to them.
Giving pupils extra help is a standard practice. In this class, there are three teachers. Anna Ancinny teaches a double lesson. Mavy just works with those who struggle. And it's the teachers here that would make any education secretary go green with envy. They are the key ingredients why in a subject like science the Fin scores so high. Teachers all have to complete a master's degree.
給予學生額外輔導是個標準做法。在這個班級裡面，有三個老師。Anna Ancinny 教一堂兩節課的課程。Mavy只教導那些有困難的學生。而正是這裡的老師們會讓任何教育部長都羨慕不已。他們是為何芬蘭在像是科學的一個科目上得到如此高分的關鍵因素。老師通通都必須完成碩士學位。
Trust is important here. In PE the kids head off, unaccompanied, for a long cross-country ski. And that effortless ease in achieving quality education is shown off by one statistic. Children here do the least number of class hours per week in the developed world and get the best results.
What is the secret of Finland's education success?
The head teacher gives his teachers much of the credits, but another reason is the T word again: trust, this time, in him.
Nobody outside is saying that you have to do like this or like that. And the feeling is that they...trust us. This is my school, it's not...the...politician school.
In countries like the UK and the US, education is built around the idea of competition. Some schools will succeed, and some won't. Incredibly though, the results of this school in Helsinki are actually the same as any other school in Finland. And that means there's no such thing as a failing Finnish school.
Finland's success has kick-started a kind of education tourism, more than one hundred foreign delegations visited last year. But the woman in charge admits there's still room for improvements.
The Finnish system, it supports very much of those pupils who have uh...learning difficulties, but we have to pay more attention also for those pupils are...who are very talented. And now we have started a pilot project about it also. That's how to support those pupils who are very gifted in somewhere else.
We call them one of the country's biggest success stories. What do Finnish businesses want for the future? For the Finnish mobile phone giant, it's about maintaining high standards in the cool subjects and consistency across the workforce.
What we want that the education system in Finland to continue doing is to keep a very good level in mathematics, science and technology related subjects. Being in the classroom with less uh...talented people, it makes you, as a talented pupil, able to teach the other ones, to work in a group with different kind of people, and to accept, ugh...diversity.
So back to the Ronnies and the youngest in their family, although is six, and like all children in Finland, he won't start at proper school until he's seven. The thinking: that by then he'll be itching to start classes, but in the meantime, it's lessons with mom at home.
How was your day at school today?
I really like them.
Like Tina's spaghetti bolognese, Finland's success is part homemade.
It's very interesting to hear what they've done.
They have a culture here of valuing education, and parents know they have a key role to play too.
They're sort of ugh...trying out. If you can say, there are parents, and then there are the kids, and then there is this school and the teachers, and then to have an active dialogue. The Finnish system are...I think it's trying to encourage students. I think ugh...at least in our school.
Explaining why the Fin score high isn't easy. Unlike other European countries, Finland has very little immigration. So when pupils start learning, language isn't a problem. But that system's success is built upon the idea of less can be more, when you have relaxed schools, free from politicians, when nobody gets left behind.
Tom Burridge, BBC news, in Helsinki.