A society’s attitude toward school is hard to consign to one particular factor. Amanda Ripley’s book, The Smartest Kids in the World, reveals that in Finland, students care about school, and caring is a widely accepted social norm. Elina, a Finnish exchange student studying in the U.S., remarks, “Not much is demanded of U.S. students… [but in Finland,] you really have to study. You have to prove that you know it” (Ripley, 100). Schools have high standards, and most students respect them. Students’ attitudes toward schools are determined by how much schools expect of them and the extent to which students accept these conditions.
Schools are, or at least stand for, places where one’s potential can flourish. Ripley’s study reveals that in Finland, students take potentiality seriously. They accept the system. Indicative of a perception in which there’s a clear justice, Ripley recounts the following exchange. Kim, an American student studying abroad in Finland, asks her [Finnish] colleagues: “What makes you work hard in school?” to which they respond, “It’s school…How else will I graduate and go to university and get a good job?” (Ripley, 98). From this response, one can see a connectedness between school, effort, and the work world. A believable message students receive is that it’s possible to succeed. There’s a clarity in how the system works. It interacts with the students and the students interact with it.
If, however, studies have revealed that family, home culture, teacher quality, socioeconomic status, school ranking, peer environment, and individual drive are determinants of a student’s performance in school, then how can we fit the notion that motivation is partly positive student perception and school system? We can’t. There are a number of cases suggesting otherwise; we still have not been able to fit them altogether.
We can however take away from Finland and the complexity of data that the idea of a system [made up of physical, social, economic, and ideological attributes] exist; variables, like the capacity to care, are dynamically tied to something all-encompassing. Policies in education, healthcare, government, and homes will affect students’ attitudes toward school. To those interested in education policy in the States, we probably have to sacrifice the speed with which we get things done with the actual long-term effects of our actions — a long-term gain.