Friday, 15 July 2011

Special Features of the Finnish Education System: Vocational Education

Lauri Kurvonen gave a presentation on Finland's vocational education sector.

The notes of the presentation are as follows:
  • 7-8% of students in vocational education take the matriculation examination
  • initial vocational education, but also specialist vocational qualifications, mainly for adults
  • last year of comprehensive school -- general application to "second step" -- student expresses their interests if they want to go to vocational education
  • the yhteishaku is based on marks from school, a nationwide application
  • it is now internet-based
  • make three preferences, either vocational education and training (VET) or gymnasium
  • polytechnic -- higher education in the vocational sector
  • 1990s -- changed VET to 3 years
  • VET -- 10% take classes in the gymnasium and 8% take the matriculation exam
  • 5% of students in university have a VET background
  • 25% of students in polytechnics have an academic background
  • VET -- 2 ways to do initial VET, from school or passing skills tests, aimed at adults with working experience
  • also further qualifications, similar to the NVQ in the UK
  • approximately 60,000 students leave comprehensive school per year -- 45% to VET, 50% to gymnasium, 4-5% do not go directly to upper-secondary school, 1-2% take an additional year in comprehensive school
General objectives of VET
  • knowledge and skills necessary for vocational competence and employment
  • knowledge skills needed in further studies and lifelong learning
  • 1/3 general subjects in VET
  • fast industrialization post-World War II
  • needed a way to produce skilled labor
  • Finnish government supported training
  • VET only way to education many in skills
Vocational Education and Training
  • operated by municipalities
  • approximately 200 VET schools
  • almost all of the schools are public
  • combination of theory and practice
  • same teachers teach both areas
  • 1945 Act -- government provides 1/2 of money to vocational industries
  • 1/2 of money comes from local and 1/2 from national budgets
  • have to buy books but allowance from state
  • decentralization and deregulation -- decisions on a local level
  • no more inspections, self-evaluations
  • merging of small schools
Qualification comes from the specific national core curriculum

Students can have a personal study plan

7 sectors of VET, 53 total qualifications:
  1. natural resources
  2. technology and transport
  3. business and administration
  4. tourism, catering, and home economics
  5. health and social services
  6. culture
  7. leisure and physical education
Initial VET
  • 120 credits (study weeks)
  • 40 per year
  • 20 credits for on-the-job training
  • (apprenticeships -- mainly adults)
120 credits
  • 20 credits -- core subjects e.g. math
  • 90 credits -- vocational studies
  • 10 credits -- free to choose
On-the-job learning
  • introduced in 1999-2000
  • done in the workplace
  • teacher comes to the workplace once in a while
  • students, not employees
  • there to learn, not to make money
  • in many cases, the student is hired
Skills demonstrations
  • practical tests in all vocational modules
  • introduced in 2006
  • in addition to written tests
Main challenges
  • lack of labor in certain fields
  • cooperation of on-the-job learning and working life, with general studies
  • opening paths to further studies
  • supporting weak students, preventing drop-outs
  • improving the prestige of VET
Competence-based qualifications
  • specialist and further qualifications
  • adult education -- 1000 institutions, 14% of Ministry of Education budget, 1 million adults participate
  • developed in 1990s
  • apprenticeships
  • updating of qualifications
Levels of qualifications
  • initial
  • further
  • specialist
Large increase in participants in VET

  • from the mid-1990s
  • more clear situation for this sector of higher education
  • for more practical focus, e.g. doctors at university, nurses at polytechnic
  • two types of engineers: insenoori (polytechnic), and diplomi-insenoori (university)

Special Features of the Finnish Educational System: Discussion Session

Riitta Lampola, Irmeli Halinen, Pirjo Koivula, Auli Toom, and Ossi Airaskorpi headed a discussion session during the Special Features of the Finnish Educational System conference.

Here are the notes from the session:
  • PISA -- proud of it but surprised by the results -- "What's so good about us?" -- not used to being in the limelight
  • primary school -- can happen that the teachers "follow" the students for six years, but more common that teachers "loop" grades 1 and 2
  • the principal at a school in Espoo (Airaskorpi) says he prefers to change teachers -- the variety in style is good for everyone
  • teacher's salary straight from university is approximately €2500 a month
  • salary quite low compared to other careers with Master's degrees
  • early childhood education's purpose is to promote learning, intentionally promoted in the early years
  • recently, early childhood education is under the education system
  • neurological/developmental research from the University of Jyvaskyla says it is the best developmentally (in terms of age) for learning in the Finnish system. Children learn to read and write faster at that age
  • the matriculation exam -- is it narrowing students' learning?
  • the national curriculum is broad
  • the university entrance exam is difficult
  • university entrance -- points for leaving certification
  • difficulty in university entrance: need a matriculation exam, a good report from the gymnasium, entrance test
  • can attend university from vocational upper-secondary education
  • higher prestige in vocational education
  • long-term evaluation -- samples of grade levels and subjects, national evaluation council conducts "theme" evaluations and make conclusions
  • correlation with family background and performance in school; home has a strong effect, but in Finland, it is the smallest among the OECD countries
  • not much talk about leadership and educational management
  • investment in the personality of the teachers
  • trust in the teachers -- independence
  • autonomy a tradition in Finland
  • principals -- municipality school board chooses them but it varies
  • principals must have a teaching qualification, examination in school administration, e.g. Helsinki has a training period for principals
  • try to keep hierarchy low, keep egalitarian values -- good for discussion and planning of work
  • school inspection dropped -- self-evaluation in faculty lounge
  • trust, high level of teacher education makes this possible
  • self-evaluation of schools -- 3 year cycle. Implements parental survey, personnel survey, student survey, meetings with teachers over different topics
  • ethos of self-evaluation from teacher education, much self evaluation in teacher education, so in schools as well
  • e.g. self-evaluation in Helsinki: learning results compared to national sample, parental opinions, health reviews, curriculum processes to evaluate (does it work in practice?), annual plan for the school year -- was it achieved?
  • trust -- acceptable for teachers to make errors. Not criticism but support
  • Finnish teaching -- old-fashioned. Visitors expect it to be more student-centered. Teacher supported and often led
  • professional development/in-service education -- based on municipalities and their research
  • universities also do further training
  • teachers have obligatory participation 3 days a year (minimum)
  • 350 school dropouts in the whole country in one year (but too much in the opinion of Finns!)
  • high achievers use a "learning plan" -- differentiation important for heterogeneous groups
  • "learning plan" -- students ca challenge themselves as they like
  • still developing how they can support the students more
  • big cities have resources to have specialized schools -- students can apply to the school
  • possible but rare to skip a grade
  • possible to start school at age 6
  • teacher salary covers 24 lessons plus three hours prep, etc.
  • before/after school care largely available in municipalities, such as school club activities after school
  • review of the national core curriculum approximately every ten years
  • budgeting of education -- no bureaucracy -- no money to inspection or testing
  • lower teacher salaries, average spending than the OECD average
  • 2004 -- the "strengthening" of the national core curriculum
  • 1998 -- new areas /regulations on student welfare, discipline in schools, more detailed guidelines in how to organize these areas
  • 1994 -- curriculum very thin, approximately 2 pages of goals and content
  • 2004 -- more detailed goals and content, new final assessment criteria and examples of good work
  • allow teachers more support and assessment guidelines
  • Finland -- capable of broad, infrastructural change
  • implementation of rational values
  • Americans -- Finnish system "looser" but a cultural bias
  • Finland -- school should be fun
  • recess outdoors every 45 minutes
  • varied start to the school day, but nobody thinks it is a waste of valuable school time if they start late
  • light homework load -- efficiency
  • flexibility of system
  • Swedish immersion stream -- Finnish speakers immersed into the Swedish language
  • not necessarily an emphasis on fun, but a friendly relationship between teachers and students
  • children usually take 5 months to learn

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Special Features of the Finnish Education System: Teacher as Future-Maker: Research-Based Teacher Education in Finland

Auli Toom of the University of Helsinki gave a presentation entitled, Teacher as Future-Maker: Research-Based Teacher Education in Finland.

Here are the notes from the presentation:

  • wide international interest in Finnish teacher education
  • PISA
  • specific characteristics of Finnish teacher education
  • huge number of applicants
  • MA for teachers
  • practice for teacher education in special teacher education schools that are part of universities
  • popular -- best applicants chosen
Teachers' responsibilities and current challenges
  • high goals of national core curriculum
  • increasing size of classes
  • pupils with special educational needs
  • multicultural issues -- more immigrants
What is the core of teachers' work?
  • teach
  • educate
  • take care
  • all of the above?
  • correspondence between competence and qualification
Different teacher education philosophy in Finland
  • e.g. deductive/intuitive approaches, school-based as in the PGCE in England
  • e.g. intuitive/inductive approaches, experiential and personal
  • e.g. rational/inductive approaches, problem-based, case approach
  • e.g. deductive/rational approaches, research-based, as in Finland with the theoretical view of pedagogical thinking, justified in the classroom
Two levels of research-based teacher education
  • e.g. general level/teaching practice --> pedagogical thinking
  • e.g. basic level/teaching practice --> everyday thinking
  • (these approaches help the teacher trainee make pedagogical decisions)
  • e.g. general level/research practice --> producing research expertise
  • e.g. basic level/research practice --> adaptation and consuming of research
  • (these approaches help the teacher trainee think critically about their own work)
Research-based approach to teacher education
  • every unit connected to research
  • conceptualization of practice
  • research methods courses, both quantitative and qualitative approaches
  • overall competence of research methods
  • Master's degree thesis
  • teachers utilize practitioner research
  • producer of research -- ability to conduct own research
  • consumers of research -- ability to understand and use research results and inform their own work
  • direct access to doctoral programs
  • completion of a teaching degree allows admission to PhD programs
  • many undertake a doctorate simultaneous to teaching
Principles of teaching practice
  • 2 practice periods
  1. focus on pedagogical practice (5 weeks, either 3rd and 4th year, or 2nd and 4th year)
  2. overall teaching practice (5 weeks)
  • most teacher education instructors have PhDs
  • "field" or "lab" schools cooperate with the teacher education courses
  • teacher education schools are part of the university
Supervision of teaching practice
  • interaction with mentors
  • tips and rational explanation
  • reflection in portfolio
Assessment of teaching practice
  • no grades -- pass/fail
  • teacher education schools supervised by those with PhDs
  • "field" or "lab" school supervisors trained to do teacher education and are compensated with money or academic credit (for a supervisor portfolio)
Teacher educators understanding of the research-based approach
  • 4 dimensions:
  1. context -- academic teacher education
  2. approach -- organizing theme of teacher education
  3. content -- curriculum of teacher education
  4. aim -- teachers' pedagogical thinking
  • relevance of the approach
  1. relevant to teachers' work
  2. teachers actively involved in curriculum development and action
  3. profession -- multi-professional collaboration
  4. no longer a static workplace
Core competencies of a future teacher
  • self-confidence
  • interaction skills
  • pedagogical skills
  • tolerate uncertainty
  • metacognitive skills
Admissions process (University of Helsinki)
  • book test
  • interview
  • group interaction/teaching exercise (e.g. 6 applicants, 15 minute mini lesson for others)
Main idea of classroom teacher education
  • interaction
  • expertise
  • society

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Special Features of the Finnish Education System: Special Needs Education and Student Welfare - Basis for Quality and Equity

Pirjo Koivula, a counselor for education, gave a presentation called Special Needs Education and Student Welfare Services: Basis for Quality and Equity.

Here are the notes from the presentation:

Strong individual support
  • all students have the same objectives and possibilities
Special support
  • difficulties, disorders and disadvantages
  • every student has the right to support
  • support depends on quality and extent of difficulties
  • identification as early as possible
Special Educational Needs (SEN) and pupil welfare in the Basic Education Act and the National Core Curriculum

  • SEN -- inclusiveness
  • inclusion in mainstream classrooms
  • equal opportunities
  • first alternative -- include in mainstream
  • second alternative -- SEN students in a special group, class, or school
Definition of SEN
  • from the Basic Education Act
  • affected by illness, disability, reduced functional ability
  • require mental and social support
  • risk factors in development that affect learning
Right to special support
  • rights to receive (for free)
  • education
  • interpretation
  • assistant e.g. math assistant during lesson
  • special aids
  • provided at all levels of education
Definition of student welfare services from the Basic Education Act
  • good learning
  • good mental, physical and social health
  • good school environment e.g. lunch, transportation
  • basic needs are most important
  • against violence, bullying, and harassment
Right to student welfare
  • in basic education -- free welfare for participation, free school meal
  • in upper-secondary education -- meal, guidance
National core curriculum: student welfare
  • individual support
  • strong community
  • transport and school meals
  • prevention and taking care of problems e.g. absences, bullying, mental health, substance abuse
Teaching pupils with SEN
  • starting point -- pupil's strengths and personal needs
  • education required to promote initiative and self-confidence
  • right time and place for studying
  • decisions made on different activities
  • sufficient resources

remedial teaching --> part-time SEN --> full-time SEN --> individual plan of education --> adjusted syllabi --> individual assessment

Remedial teaching - when?
  • temporary e.g. prolonged absence
  • before student judged as weak
  • immediately after appearance of difficulty
  • often and widely as necessary
  • initiated by teacher
  • organized in cooperation with parents
  • during or out of lessons
Part-time SEN
  • provided when slight difficulties in learning, or need more support for overcoming learning difficulties
  • administered (more commonly as) team teaching, small groups, individually, most often in reading and writing difficulties for young children, for older students, in foreign languages and math
Individual Education Plan (IEP)
  • in the National Core Curriculum
  • decision of SEN is made with changes to the syllabus or teaching arrangements
Multi-professional approach
  • cross-sectoral cooperation
Pre-school education for six-year-olds
  • 96% of six-year-olds attend
  • core curriculum in 2000, reforms in 2003
Core curriculum reforms 2004
  • before and after school core curriculum
  • grades 1 and 2 curricula, SEN
Amount of students in SEN
  • 2006 - 7.7% of students
  • 1998 - 3.8%
  • better diagnosed now?
  • do too many students have SEN?
  • dependent on municipalities -- looking toward more equality in different municipalities
  • more boys in SEN -- 68% boys, 32% girls
  • more and more students in SEN due to dyslexia (better diagnosed)
  • 21.9% in part-time SEN
  • girls in SEN - math, boys in behavioral SEN
  • individualization of syllabus in a single subject more common
Ministry of Education 2006 - long-term project on SEN
  • earlier support and prevention
  • intensified support before a decision to differentiate student e.g. remedial, counseling
  • helps bolster learning and prevent problems with learning
  • move towards more inclusive education
  • education administered where it is most beneficial for the student e.g. deaf pupil may need to move out of municipality
Future challenges
  • equality in education and student welfare
  • municipal autonomy
  • regional differences
  • support to mainstream schools

Special Features of the Finnish Education System: Curriculum Development in Finland

Irmeli Halinen, Head of preschool and basic education development at the Finnish National Board of Education, gave a speech entitled curriculum development in Finland.

Here are the notes:

Basic principles of education
  • equity
  • equality
  • high quality
  • inclusiveness
  • try to take care of all students and their needs
Finnish education system
  • 6 year olds
  • optional 10th year for those who need more support
  • can do vocational upper-secondary education and the matriculation qualifications
  • allows for individual choices/paths
Learning culture intertwines:
  1. the education system -- comprehensive, inclusive, coherent, trust and support
  2. teachers -- good, valued, high quality of teacher education
  3. individual support -- early intervention plays an active role
History of the education system
  • comprehensive reform from 1970-1977
  • upper secondary school started 1975
  • renewed the national core curriculum in 1985, 1994, 2003-2004
  • coherent and consistent (even with different governments)
  • first national curriculum 1970 -- centralized system (ability grouping grades 7-9, lowest groups did not go to university/upper-secondary school), detailed goals, content, guidelines
  • core curriculum 1985 -- made the municipality more important, ability grouping abolished, eligibility to further studies for everyone
  • revolution/paradigm shift 1994 -- no more school inspection, inspection of teaching materials, delegation of power to municipalities and schools, cooperative learning, "thin" core curriculum
  • 2004 -- method of cooperation, feedback from schools, moved "backwards" - strengthened support and guidance, municipalities getting too large, more core curriculum, new lessons hours, emphasis on goals rather than content
Culture of coherence, trust, and support
  • commonly accepted values, goals, expectations
  • support and cooperation instead of control
  • trust in municipality
  • interaction at/with all levels e.g. municipal, school, state
  • teacher status
Reading comprehension
  • 1965 and 2005 -- lowest performing students doing much better in 2005 than in 1965
  • Finland higher than the OECD average, especially at the lowest performing level
Quality of Finnish education
  • good outcomes -- PISA, low class repetition (2%), low drop out rate during compulsory school (0.5%), 96% to upper-secondary education
  • high trust in education
  • equality of provision/quality
  • effective use of resources e.g. 190 days, 4-7 hours per day, moderate homework, 6% of GDP to education
Math scores
  • student and score level -- Finland higher than OECD average, especially at the low level
Time in mathematics
  • moderate amount of time/homework
  • huge difference e.g. Korea and Finland, especially time out of/after school
Curriculum strategy
  • curriculum - national
  • municipal curricula
  • school curricula
  • curriculum is an ongoing process
  • principals and teachers in curriculum development
  • parents and students too
  • national agreement of participation of other sectors, e.g. health and social care
Steering system
  • paradigm change -- teaching and learning on top, most important; national curriculum a good base of support
  • interaction and common direction
  • e.g. national, municipal, school level
  • e.g. teacher education, curriculum, study materials
  • inclusive and supportive
  • broad
  • inclusive for all students
  • balance between academic achievement and student welfare
  • more attention/emphasis on holistic development of the child
  • PISA showed that the academics are good, but a need for more holistic education
  • school culture and environment is open, flexible, accepting
  • future-oriented, competence-based thinking
  • curriculum a tool for leadership and professional and school development
Roles and tasks of the school curriculum
  • school curriculum involves:
  1. school's plan
  2. teachers' plan
  3. individual study plan
  4. municipal strategies
  5. parents
  6. other schools
  7. individual study
  8. special education
Basic Education Act
  • "Education shall be provided according to the student's age and capabilities and so as to promote all students' healthy growth and development"
  • starting point
  • take differences into account
  • minimum and maximum hours in school
  • organization of teaching and learning: Basic Education Act and Decree, Government's Decree, National Core Curriculum, municipal/school curriculum
  • distribution of hours
  • integrative, cross-curricular themes in lower secondary education, e.g. growth as a person, citizenship
  • organizing teaching and learning
  • flexibility and school/teacher autonomy
  • importance of goals
  • goals expressed as competencies (large competencies, not detailed)
  • teachers encouraged o take into account students' needs
  • emphasis/importance of good basic competencies
Concept of learning (the PISA secret?)
  • is it old-fashioned in Finland?
  • teachers see students as responsible for their own learning
  • learning process is individual and cooperative
Teachers are the key
  • McKinsey -- need the right people, development, and best instruction to be good teachers
  • "the only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction"
Quality of instruction
  • respecting pupils
  • high expectations
  • individual learning
  • friendly atmosphere
  • combination of individual, group, community -- a process
  • support of teachers
  • flexible teaching
  • pedagogical leadership
  • parent-teacher conferences
  • e.g. goals for the child

Special Features of the Finnish Education System: Reasons Behind Finnish Students' Success in PISA (Scientific Literacy)

Jari Lavonen, Professor of Physics and Chemistry Education at the University of Helsinki, gave a presentation about the reasons behind Finnish students' success in PISA (scientific literacy).

The notes from his presentation are as follows:

PISA framework 2006 had a science emphasis, measuring knowledge about science and the knowledge about the use of science. For example:
  • identification of scientific issues
  • explanation of phenomena
  • drawing of evidence-based conclusions
  • open or closed answer
  • different competencies
  • knowledge categories
  • application area
  • setting
  • sample question, Level 3, about acid rain. 65% of Finnish students correctly answered the question, while 43% at the OECD average
Competence areas:
  • Finland -- 70 points above the OECD average
  • 70 points is approximately one proficiency level
  • Scandinavian countries are close to the OECD average. Why? The Finnish answer: teacher training, students try harder, they take PISA seriously, fewer empty answers. The Scandinavian answer: Finnish teaching methods are old fashioned
Low achievers vs. high achievers
  • Finland -- few low achievers
  • Scandinavia -- performance even on all 6 levels
  • Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Korea -- profile similar to Finland's
  • UK, USA, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, France -- opposite profile to Finland's
Performance within schools vs. performance between schools
  • Finland -- low variation between schools
  • Germany, Czech Republic -- high variation between schools
  • e.g. Germany -- already differentiation at the age of PISA testing (15)
  • if PISA took place one year later, Finland would have a bigger difference within the age group
Interest of Finland
  • high human development index leads to less interest in school
  • Finland's interest in science lower than OECD level
Education policy (with PISA data)
  • science teaching from teacher education, local curriculum, learning materials
  • Finland's national curriculum, textbooks, teacher training, responsible for high scores in PISA scientific literacy
  • Japan -- juku responsible
Main cornerstones of education policy:
  • consistent and long-term policy
  • commitment to a knowledge society
  • equality e.g. effective special education
  • local power of education
  • culture of trust in the education system
  • budget: Finland 65.3%, OECD average 53.2%
  • discipline: Finland 96%, OECD average 80.5%
  • access: Finland 97%, OECD average 76%
  • school size: Finland (less than 20 students) 50%, OECD average 47% of class size 21-25 students
Finland's PISA head teacher report:
  • 91.7% pubic schools
  • OECD: 82.7%
  • 97.5% reported that 99% of funding came from the government
  • 64.3% of students not divided by ability
Science subjects in school:
  • grades 1-4 -- integrated curriculum: environment and natural studies, 9 hours per week
  • grades 5-6 -- integrated curriculum: Biology/geography - 1.5 hours per week; Physics and Chemistry - 1 hour per week
  • grades 7-9 -- separate curriculum
  • grades 10-12 -- separate curriculum
  • Korea -- primary - integrated, 2 hours per week
Finnish science curriculum
  • much of content reflected in PISA
  • separate science at grades 7-9
  • PISA - lifelong learning capacity
  • OECD definition of literacy fits well with science goals in Finland
  • often responsible for most of the teaching
  • good in Finland
  • many contextual relationships in textbooks
  • e.g. science and humans, science and society
Science teacher education
  • subject teachers (grade 7-9, upper secondary) study one major and one minor e.g. math and Chemistry
  • primary teachers (grade 1-6) study 13 subjects
  • subject teacher education 3+2 years (3 years Bachelor's, 2 years Master's)
  • BA/BS - major and minor studies -- similar to other students, begin pedagogy and communication studies
  • MA/MS level - e.g. history of science, pedagogical theory (undertaken at the university), teaching practice (schools), thesis (either in the subject or in pedagogy)
The University of Helsinki's teacher education programs:
  • 11 faculties, 6 have teacher education
  • work together to plan the teacher education curriculum
  • subject knowledge and skills
  • pedagogical knowledge and skills
  • competence for continuous professional development
Teaching methods for science
  • not much research
  • some research after LUMA
  • Norris et al. (1996) -- teacher's pedagogy conservative, traditional, lots of practical work
  • Simola (2005) -- teachers supported by trust in teachers, "traditional" role believed in and accepted
  • Pehkonen, Antee, and Lavonen (2007) -- education policy, national core curriculum, teacher education, students good understanding in reading
  • Aho, Pitkanen, and Sahlberg -- stable environment, educational reform, comprehensive school, interaction of education with other sectors
  • obvious reasons:
  1. Finnish culture -- trust in education, status of teachers
  2. education policy -- widely accepted vision of knowledge-based society, devolution of power, trust
  3. comprehensive school -- goals for science education and textbooks, headmaster as pedagogical director, school practice e.g. lunch, special education
  4. teacher education -- the old fashioned way, respected, 5 year training

Special Features of the Finnish Education System: Steering and Financing of Educational Services in Finland

Timo Lankinen spoke about the steering and financing of the educational services in Finland, addressing the economics and administration of education.

Here are the notes from his presentation:

Features of the Finnish education system:
  • equal opportunities
  • regional accessibility
  • decentralized since the 1990s -- municipally administered
  • publicly funded
  • free, e.g. meals, travel, materials (no university fees either)
  • state financial aid scheme
  • learning environment -- individual attention, innovation, recognition of prior learning
  • virtuous cycle of teaching, e.g. low acceptance rate to teacher education
  • Welfare State
Structure of the education system:
  • polytechnics -- creation was the largest reform in the 1990s (upgraded to higher education level)
  • polytechnic Master's degrees, after three years of work experience
  • expansion and amalgamation of universities. Universities are under state control, while polytechnics are under municipal or company control
  • students in education -- lower enrollment, less population in age cohort
  • expenditure: 10 billion Euros overall, basic education 36.5% of expenditure
Pre-primary and basic education
  • six-year-olds have the right to (free) schooling, but the municipalities organize care. This way children are prepared before basic education. (Day care teachers are trained in universities.)
  • basic education -- from 7 to 16 years. Class teachers for the first six years, then subject teachers for the last three years
  • local authorities assign a place, but there is school choice
  • maintained by municipalities
  • basic education core curriculum -- a national core curriculum, from the Board of Education but administered in the local system
History of Finnish Education
  • Reforms 1972-1977 to comprehensive school from a parallel school
  • core curriculum reviewed in 1985, 1994, and 2004 -- strengthened the role of the municipality, strengthened special needs education, increased the importance of home-school relation
Post-comprehensive schools
  • new movement to have a combination of vocation school and gymnasium
  • more students to initial vocational education -- a growing sector
  • 97% of students go directly to upper secondary school
  • general education allows eligibility to further studies
  • polytechnic students are also eligible for higher education
Matriculation exam
  • based on the national curriculum
  • four tests minimum: mother tongue (Finnish or Swedish), mathematics, foreign language, general
Vocational Education and Training
  • work-based learning
  • apprentice based training
  • licence from ministry, but provided by municipalities or companies
  • Initial vocational education and training: 53 qualifications, 116 study programs
  • qualifications by registered vocational education and training providers
  • qualifications set by the National Board of Education
  • different ways to acquire a qualification -- curriculum based and demonstration based
Higher Education
  • universities and polytechnics
  • universities -- state
  • polytechnics -- most municipal or private
Adult education
  • flexible way for adults to study
Steering of Educational Services
  • national development plans set guidelines every five years
  • legislation reformed in 1999. Decision-making to the providers level
  • registered education providers, e.g. vocational education -- local but national approval
  • national core curriculum and vocational qualifications at basic, gymnasium, and vocational levels
  • teacher education of high quality
  • national requirements of teachers
  • financing
  • evaluation a central role of the provider. High trust in providers (no inspectorate)
  • quality management at the provider's level
The Constitution
  • educational rights (Section 16):
  • the right to education free of charge
  • public authorities must provide the opportunity
  • freedom guaranteed
  • the Saame -- constitutional rights to cultural autonomy. The Saame Parliament has educational influence. Some schools in the Saame language
  • equal rights for national languages (Section 17), Finnish and Swedish
The Finnish National Board of Education
  • first developed in 1991
  • responsible for the administration of education at all levels
Evaluation by the Finnish National Board of Education
  • assesses learning outcomes at basic and upper secondary education
  • provides self-assessment
  • only uses samples (5,000-6,000 students), does not test the entire age cohort
  • reports at age/subject
  • results not published at the school level, only national
Role of the municipality
  • Constitution (Section 21) -- self government, municipal tax
  • 416 municipalities
  • public administration mainly local
  • expenditure accounts for 30% of total public sector and 2/3 public consumption
  • 50% on welfare and health, 25% on education
  • municipalities cooperate with each other, e.g. vocational schools and polytechnics (voluntary) and health care (obligatory)

Special Features of the Finnish Education System

The Finnish National Board of Education organized a conference entitled Special Features of the Finnish Education System, which took place between 31 March and 2 April 2008. It addressed these special features and Finland's success in PISA.

I was lucky enough to attend this conference. The following posts will contain my notes from this conference.

Monday, 11 July 2011

PISA Under Examination: Bob Cowan's Closing Speech

Bob Cowan closed the Symposium with a speech called, "Currencies, contexts, and Cassandra: whose truths are true and where do we go from here?"

The notes:

Currency - what counts as good exchange value
Cassandra - following (not) what seems to be good policy

PISA - an attractive topic:
  • We have positioned ourselves in PISA in a number of roles
  • error in curriculum thought
  • political science problem
  • a comparison of political power into forms of governance
  • state-of-the-art empirical work
  • media event
PISA - loosely speaking, is "comparative education"
  • it compares one with the other
  • 50 tears out of date - comparative education is not doing that anymore
  • is Big Science -- asks a question and makes it as powerful as it can
  • costs money
  • politics of the birth of PISA -- what are they?
  • politics of its death
Jullien (1817) - A [positivist] Science of Comparative Education
  • PISA part of the trajectory of comparative education
  • the motif of the diffusion of best practice
Rashomon PISA:
  • Japanese fable of two different stories of a death in the woods
  • admiring the technical skills of PISA
  • historical perspective and connections and disconnection with Sputnik, Cold War, politics of governance
  • disciplinary technology of PISA -- Foucault
  • Weber -- rationalization of the world
  • upsetting quality of PISA e.g. Gerry Mac Ruiarc
  • issues of immigration -- why are the Turks not improving?
  • "result riddles" -- e.g. deciphering the Finnish result riddle
  • political positioning by Education Ministries of PISA as irrelevant as a GPS
  • positioning of PISA by identity politics
  • PISA as an ideology (at the international level)
The scientification of policy
  • Jullien's motif
  • the motif from the political plea (in neo-liberal discourses) e.g. USA, Australia
The politicization of science
  • numbers
  • cultural significance and magic of numbers
  • as political resistance
  • as victory

PISA Under Examination: Daniel Trohler's Keynote Speech

Daniel Trohler gave a keynote speech entitled, "Concepts, cultures, and comparisons: PISA and the German discontents."

The notes are as follows:

2002, the University of Heidelberg, Uni Spiegel: Lecture series: Are we still the educational elite?
  • in response to PISA
  • "are we still the people of poets and thinkers?"
  • PISA a cultural crisis
  • no country reacted the same
  • created a market for PISA
Caused by a clash of two different traditions.

Five steps:
  1. Bildung: competence, knowledge
  2. clash of cultures
  3. educational "system"
  4. real world and challenges
  5. double discontent
Germans are either pro- or anti-PISA
  • in defense -- cite concept of Bildung
  • distinction between useful/useless knowledge
PISA -- no measurement of curriculum in the English language , but in German "ability" translates to Grundbildung, or foundation, knowledge.

Grundbildung translates as literacy, but also as competence.

Married/connected concepts of Bildung, or the aim of knowledge, and Kompetenz.

This contrasts with knowledge, or Wissen.
  • There was much discussion in Germany about these relationships
  • inward Bildung vs. adjustment to the outer world
  • Bildung -- "purposeless" knowledge not codifiable
  • PISA -- value for money, ideology's cancer
The clash of cultures
  • American pragmatism
  • beginning of discussion in Europe
  • "despicable utilitarianism"
  • the clash between gentleman and Personlichkeit
  • Bildung, or "masters of life" e.g. Humboldt, Goethe, "is unmeasurable"
The educational "system", its engineers and cognition psychology
  • Sputnik
  • education in the Cold War: emphasis on mathematics, science, foreign languages
  • development of human capital theory
Something about the real world and its challenges: What exactly does PISA assess?
  • performance of students
  • basic competencies of the next generation
  • students' literacy skills
  • the educational system
The inner and outer harmony and the double discontent:
  • concept of "one world"
  • USA - development of industrial and scientific techniques
  • PISA - not a specific cultural context: neglecting real-life situations and ignoring cultural competencies
  • e.g. Germany: harmonious inner Personlichkeit vs. PISA: harmonious one world
  • "inward Bildung" - Lutheranism
  • "one world" - Calvanism
  • questioning Bildung questions German national character
  • German PISA -- less concerned with international standing, but the differences in German performance
  • failure in integrating

PISA Under Examination: Bob Cowan's Response to Hannu Simola's Keynote Speech

Professor Bob Cowan gave an interesting response to Professor Hannu Simola's keynote speech.

Here are the notes:
  • UK -- testing makes school/education more efficient -- a myth!
  • Hannu Simola demystified the Finnish system
  • Contingency -- things we didn't expect, predict; coincidence, accidental happenings, inserted into the historically complex comparative education. A major cause of freedom is accidents, as implied in Simola's paper
  • two dimensions of contingency: accident and freedom
  • add in convergence, politics
  • skeptical about transfer
Accidents can play an important role:
  • "Only good teams are lucky" -- Finnish ice hockey coach
  • this was not planned
  • Vanhanen -- IQ testing -- Finland scores higher in PISA than IQ tests would indicate
  • Civil War - Reds thought they would get teacher support, but very low

PISA Under Examination: Hannu Simola's Keynote Speech

Hannu Simola gave a keynote speech entitled, "Education policy and contingency: Belief, status, and trust behind the Finnish PISA miracle."

Here are the notes from the speech:

Comparative studies in education are now more popular than ever, thanks to PISA. Novoa and Yariv-Marshal (2003) called them "soft comparisons."

Contingency as uncertainty:
  • "age of contingency"
  • double meaning of contingency
  • "the art of playing"
  • Hautamaki (2008) in reference to Finland's performance PISA 2006: "chance encounter, a lucky constellation"
  • the concept of contingency -- does it explain Finland in PISA?
  1. high belief in schooling
  2. teaching respected
  3. comprehensive school trusted
  • why do these three beliefs exist?
  • there is little research comparing Finnish education to other Nordic countries
Hypothesis for Finland's success in PISA -- High belief in schooling:
  • "late bloomer"
  • e.g. compulsory education
  • e.g. expansion of schooling
  • e.g. late construction of the Welfare State
  • e.g. late modernization of the occupational structure
  • e.g. most recently left agrarian lifestyle, even compared to Nordic countries
  • the "high belief" in schooling came from these examples
  • they happened at the same time -- a collective experience
Hypothesis for Finland's success in PISA -- High status of comprehensive school teachers
  • teaching popular, especially in the primary years
  • an accepted profession for upper social strata
  • 10% acceptance rate to teacher training programs
  • requirement of MA
Hypothesis for Finland's success in PISA -- Requirement for teachers to have an MA coincided with comprehensive school reform
  • 1971 Act -- primary school teaching courses moved to universities
  • MA model not proposed by the government
  • 1977 -- teaching degrees now MA level
  • this coincides with the comprehensive school reforms -- the MA model was accepted because of this
Hypothesis for Finland's success in PISA -- High trust in comprehensive school
  • 1990s -- era of trust officially began
  • prescribed teaching, curriculum, school inspectorate all abandoned
  • the reforms of the 1990s -- restructuring of the steering of education
  • recession 1991-1993 -- budget cuts in education/schooling strengthened the judicial position of the municipalities
  • Finland's school system one of the most decentralized in Europe
  • competing coalitions of the national QAE of compulsory schooling, e.g. Ministry of Education and Finnish National Board of Education
  • Finnish National Board of Education: "We have no control over anything. This is our biggest weakness."
Hypothesis for Finland's success in PISA: The recession forced a move to evaluation-based goal steering
  • ironically created the trust in the system
Contingency as freedom:
  • different levels of conjunction -- changes happened all at once
  • coinciding of teacher training and comprehensive school reforms
  • concurrent municipal control and comprehensive school governance
  • this gave freedom for the policy actors
  • "constructive effects of human action: consequences that may be sweeping and far reaching but rarely foreseeable or suspected." - Dahler-Larsen (2007)
  • focus on how schools change reforms rather than how reforms change schools

PISA Under Examination: Julio Carabana's Keynote Speech

Julio Carabana gave a keynote speech called, "Why do the results of immigrant students depend so much on their country of origin?"

The notes from the speech are as follows:

Before PISA:
  • various studies concerning immigrant students, e.g. Sharit (1990) Israeli differences: Sephardic, Ashkenazi, Arabs
After PISA:
  • more data, e.g. country of origin, first or second generation, parental education, age at immigration, language spoken at home
  • e.g. Belgium: differences among Flemish/French-speaking groups, the differences among the groups depending on country of origin and school language
  • e.g. New Zealand: also differences related to country of origin
  • PISA allows us to see data of students of the same country of origin in different educattion systems, e.g. Turks in Germany, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, e.g. former Yugloslavians in Germany, Austria, Luxembourg. --> These immigrants had similar performances in PISA in the different countries
  • PISA 2003: e.g. Chinese in Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, e.g. Italians in Italy, Luxembourg, e.g. Hispanics in the USA and Latin America
  • PISA 2006: e.g. Koreans in New Zealand and Australia
  • PISA 2006: Turkish immigrants in Austria and Denmark score lower than Turks in Turkey
  • has very little impact on students' scores
  • score similarly to their country of origin
  • not much convergence
  • often worse scores in "destination" country for Turkey, Spain, and Italy
How do we explain this?


What do some immigrants take from their home country to the "destination country"?
  • long-lasting effect
  • something lasting, resilient, pervasive, and powerful
Things they are not:
  • home conditions e.g. wealth
  • social, political, economic conditions in the home country
  • schools in either country
  • status of families: socio-economic or cultural
Something cultural:
  • e.g. Confucianism (Asia), Fatalism (Muslims), Protestant/Catholic
  • which moral tradition is so pervasive and powerful that it (almost) completely neutralizes the influence of new countries?
  • keep in mind immigrants want to succeed more than "natives"
  • non-religious influences succeed most e.g. China, India
  • Flynn effect: IQ changes over time
  • cognitive ability is resilient: differences of cognitive ability of different groups (controversial). This hypothesis has dangers (moral, political, personal)
  • Australian immigrants out-perform their cousins (e.g. Chinese)

PISA Under Examination: Petra Stanat's Keynote Speech

Petra Stanat gave a keynote speech entitled, "Conditions of Immigrant Students' Educational Success -- Evidence from PISA."

The notes from the speech:

Preliminary remarks on PISA:
  • neither all good nor all bad
  • has strengths and limitations
  • can answer some questions but is silent on others
  • one piece of the puzzle of evidence-based educational policy and practice
  • strengths and limitations regarding immigrant students
Starting points:
  • issue of immigrants
  • schools a central role in integration
  • immigrant students lag behind others
  • potential of PISA: How successful are immigrant students in school? What determines their achievement?
  • limitations of PISA: What can be done to improve the situation?
Immigrants in Germany:
  • temporary immigrants post-World War II: "guest workers," asylum, refugees -- expected to return home
  • ethnic Germans from USSR and Eastern Europe: granted citizenship
  • no good data on immigration of that time
  • 2000: accepted that Germany is a country of immigrants
  • PISA: 22% of students have an immigrant background, e.g. Turkey, Eastern Europe, other (52%)
How successful are immigrants in school?
  • immigrants not as academically successful: vocational school 44% non-German, Gymnasium 14% non-German
  • tracking patterns? Does it discriminate against immigrants? Differences in achievement -- specifically with German language skills
  • determinants of educational success of immigrants: national/societal level, system level, school type - which track?, community level, school level, classroom level, teacher level, student and family level
What determines immigrant students' success?
  • do students who live and learn in segregated settings achieve less than those in an integrated environment? More influence from students of lower socio-economic status, except Turkish students, especially in schools with over 40% Turkish students
  • reading literacy effects (immigration) biggest influence of another language at home. First vs. Second generation -- improvement in all groups except for students of Turkish or Italian background
What can be done to improve immigrant student achievement?
  • bilingual support: immersion vs. transitional programs. Explicit approach: summer camp settings, focus on form, grammar lessons. Implicit approach: drama lessons. The explicit group performed better, but not in a statistically significant manner.
  • studies like PISA provide important comparative information on the situation of immigrant students
  • data like this can help identify determinants of success at this level
  • immigrants need targeted second-language support
  • interventions should be clearly defined and start early
  • more research is needed