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Finland

#1  Postby I'm With Stupid » Mar 15, 2010 12:35 am

We've got to have some people from Finland on this website. And as I understand it, you are the current undisputed heavyweight champions of the world when it comes to education. Constantly top of studies comparing literacy, numeracy, particular subjects, and education generally. So how do you do it? Can any Finnish people give an insight into the education system over there?

From what I've read so far, it appears that the following are true:
- it's a comprehensive system.
- it's very difficult to open a private school, and fee paying schools are prohibited.
- there are no inspectors.
- there are no league tables.
- you need a masters degree or above to teach, and are paid accordingly (although somehow manage not to spend any more than anyone else)
- the RE curriculum applies nationally.
- teaching is of the liberal, wishy-washy encouraging kids to think for themselves and discuss ideas kind, rather than the sit-up-straight-and-face-the-front kind.
- no school uniforms.
- rarely more than half an hour of homework a night.
- don't start school until the age of 7.
- teachers are referred to by first names.
- more freedom for teachers to teach as they see fit.

Also, what is the status regarding faith schools? Are there any, and are they state funded? Also, I kinda get the feeling that in recent years, UK schools have become somewhere where all of the worlds social problems will be solved, rather than just teaching the basic subjects. So you have classes on global warming, citizenship, alcohol and drugs, and even these things creeping into main subjects (particularly preaching about global warming infiltrating the science curriculum). How do these things work in Finnish schools?

So can any Finns give a bit of an overview or a few opinions?

And in the meantime, here's an article to read on it.
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Re: Finland

#2  Postby Rome Existed » Mar 15, 2010 1:11 pm

From what I was told during my time at university gaining my Bachelor of Education they have the advantage of having almost no minorities. They get to teach one history, one culture, etc. With more students being "the same" you don't need to teach as many different lessons in the same lesson.

Also the age 7 thing........ before that most boy's brains haven't developed to the point of being able to easily learn to read and write. Putting all that pressure on them for something many can't do yet but will learn fine soon.
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Re: Finland

#3  Postby I'm With Stupid » Mar 15, 2010 3:02 pm

Rome Existed wrote:From what I was told during my time at university gaining my Bachelor of Education they have the advantage of having almost no minorities. They get to teach one history, one culture, etc. With more students being "the same" you don't need to teach as many different lessons in the same lesson.

I dunno, that has the faint whiff of BS tbh. It wasn't that long since I went to school, and there was no emphasis on learning about the history of every culture in the UK. For a start, the vast majority of UK history is well before any multiculturalism existed in a big way in the UK. And wouldn't explain the achievements in maths, science, literacy, etc. It might be a factor, but I'm dubious myself. The only area where I can genuinely see it being an issue is when you get kids whose first language isn't the language they're being taught in. But culturally, kids from an East Asian background do better than average in America and the UK, for example, so I don't think you can just attribute it to a lack of ethnic minorities. Another stat is that the Finns read more than any other country, which could be either the result or cause of the successful education system.
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Re: Finland

#4  Postby Ronja » Mar 16, 2010 8:27 am

OK, this will require multiple answers over several days or weeks, but here's a start:

* historical importance of the ability to read in one's own vernacular, based on the reformist (critical of catholicism) teachings of Martin Luther (Finland became lutheran in 1527 - this was then a part of Sweden)
* bishop Mikael Agricola, who studied with Luther and after that created the Finnish written vernacular, wrote our first alphabet book in 1543 and the first new testament in Finnish in 1548, both to be used by clergy to teach grownups to read
* requiring the proven ability to read of all who wish to marry since the 17th century (and this was a real requirement - one actually got a "ban from marriage" if one failed at the end of catechism classes - a great social shame)
* legal push for county-based schooling for all children of the nation since 1866, strengthened in 1898
* universal suffrage (all social stratas and both genders) since 1906, and every citizen eligible to run for parliament, too
* compulsory education since 1921 (six years of primary school to begin with). I recently asked my mother if she had ever heard of a forefather or -mother who could not read, and she said no - and they were farmers
* essentially free education on all levels, including colleges and universities, since the transformation to a 9-year elementary school 1968-1978

So one factor for the Finnish school results today is that education has historically been highly valued in Finland, and state and county/city tax funds have been used to subsidize organized teaching and learning for over 150 years already. I see similar values in Laura Ingals Wilder's books about the little house and little town on the prairie - schools were built as soon as possible in the new frontier towns and teaching was a well paid profession, even when a tiny village could only afford a few weeks of school per year for their children.
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Re: Finland

#5  Postby crank » Mar 16, 2010 8:52 am

Ronja wrote:

So one factor for the Finnish school results today is that education has historically been highly valued in Finland,


That one bit there, that's the important one. Schools and the education system in the US suck so bad not because of the politicians, not because we don't pay enough, not because of teacher unions, none of that, it is because education is not valued worth a damn here. Oh, don't get me wrong, you hear unending rhetoric about it's importance, but there is no real commitment. It's all in the parents and how extensive their involvement is with the kids, the teachers, and the schools. I see no evidence that this is happening, at all.
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-George Carlin, who died 2008. Ha, now we have human centipedes running the place
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