Friday, 15 July 2011

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

No comments:

Post a Comment