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The Best School in the World - Embassy of Finland, Washington - Consulate Generals of Finland, New York, Los Angeles : Current Affairs


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News, 6/1/2012

The Best School in the World

Finland has one of the highest-performing school systems in the world. For over a decade Finnish students have achieved top results in the OECD’s international PISA assessment of academic attainment. PISA assesses reading, mathematical literacy, and scientific literacy of fifteen-year-old students in all thirty-four OECD nations, including the United States. But what is the secret to the success of the Finnish education system? 

Photo: Jussi TiainenHiidenkivi Comprehensive School, Helsinki, 2005. Häkli Architects/ Seppo Häkli. Photo: Jussi Tiainen


The Exhibition “The Best School in the World” explores this question from an architectural perspective. The Exhibition is open for public at the Embassy of Finland in Washington D.C. between June 16 and July 22 on Saturdays and Sundays, then moving on to New York in October.

 Learning is a process invariably influenced by the environment in which it takes place. “The Best School in the World” provides an overview of the Finnish school system from its inception to the present day. It examines the historical evolution of school architecture and highlights the role of education as the keystone of our fundamentally egalitarian society. In what type of environments does learning take place today, and what kind of physical settings are the most conducive to successful learning?

Photo: Jussi TiainenComprehensive School, Joensuu, 2007. Landelma & Mahlamäki Architects / Ilmari Lahdelma. Photo: Jussi Tiainen

Finland’s public education system provides all Finnish children with equal access to a high standard of schooling. Recently there has emerged a rising trend towards age integration and inclusion of students with special needs. The promotion of social interaction, too, is another key aspiration in new school architecture. Schools additionally provide a multipurpose venue for recreation and adult education on weekends and weekday evenings. The exhibition produced by the Museum of Finnish Architecture shows how Finnish schools are carefully designed to address the academic, social, emotional, and physical needs of children, beginning at an early age.

The core of the exhibition showcases a selection of Finnish schools built in the 2000s, an abridged version of which featured at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in autumn 2010. Schools from the 20th and 21st centuries are additionally illustrated with slide shows, which also provide a sneak preview of new schools that are currently under planning
or construction. Also accompanying the exhibition is a slide show presenting  schools from 1900 to the 1970s.

The seven highlighted Finnish schools are:

Strömberg School, Helsinki, 2001. Kari Järvinen and Merja Nieminen Architects SAFA
Viikki Teacher Training School, Helsinki, 2004. ARK-House Architects

Hiidenkivi Comprehensive School, Helsinki, 2005. Häkli Architects

Sakarinmäki School and Day Nursery, Helsinki, 2006. Sari Nieminen, Architect & FLN Architects
Comprehensive School in Joensuu, 2007. Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects

Enter Upper Secondary School and Vocational College, Sipoo, 2007. K2S Architects

Kirkkojärvi School, Espoo, 2010. Verstas Architects

The Exhibition is produced by the Museum of Finnish Architecture. For more information please visit

Washington D.C.:

June 16 – July 22, Saturdays and  Sundays,  11am  – 4pm
Free entrance
Embassy of Finland
3301 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington D.C.
More information: (202) 298 5822

New York:

Opening on October 1st at the Center for Architecture

536 LaGuardia Place
NY, NY 10012
(212) 683-0023

Gallery Hours
Mon-Fri: 9am to 8pm
Sat: 11am to 5pm


Photo: Marko HuttunenEnter, Upper Secondary School and Vocational College, Sipoo, 2007. K2S Architects Ltd / Kimmo Lintula, Mikko Summanen & Niko Sirola. Photo: Marko Huttunen


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Updated 6/13/2012

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