Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg has said teachers in Finland have a clear and strong belief that they and not the state should be assessing students at lower secondary level.

Professor Sahlberg, who is currently a visiting professor at Harvard University, was involved in reforming the Finnish education system during the 1990s.

He was in Ireland addressing a conference on educational reform at NUI Galway.

The OECD reports consistently rank Finland as among the best performing education systems worldwide.

Speaking about the current dispute between teachers and the Government over Junior Cycle reform, Mr Sahlberg said that he understood teacher concerns around how objective teacher assessment could be.

He said Finnish teachers had the same concerns. However they regarded this concern as less of a problem than the negative aspects that come with external assessment.

Professor Sahlberg also said that Finnish teachers spend fewer hours in the classroom teaching students. Because of this they have more time to dedicate to collaboration with colleagues, preparation, and assessment.

The executives of the country's two teacher trade unions are to meet on Friday to decide a date for a second day's strike in protest at the Government's Junior Cycle reform plans.

The plans include a requirement that teachers in Ireland assess 40% of their student's work for the Junior Certificate exam.