Finland has largely remade itself over the last 35 years, revamping its education system, transforming its medical care structure and creating a new high-tech sector that, thanks to cell phone manufacturer Nokia, has become an international player. Today Finland is regularly cited as among the world's best in a variety of indexes and comparisons. For example:

* The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, ranks Finland's economy the most competitive in the world.

* Yale and Columbia universities rank the nations of the world in a "sustainability index" that measures a country's ability to "protect the natural environment over the next several decades." Finland is first in the rankings.

* Statistics kept by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that Finland invests more of its gross domestic product in research and development than any country but Sweden.

* Finnish 15-year-olds score first in the industrial world on comparative tests of their academic abilities.

* According to a global survey by Transparency International, Finland is perceived as the least corrupt country in the world. (The United States is tied for 17th.)

* Finns read newspapers and take books out of libraries at rates as high or higher than all other countries.

* Finland trains more musicians, per capita, than any other country.

-- Robert G. Kaiser