We have all heard of many wonderful things about education in Finland. A few months ago, a former student and a few colleagues at his serving school organised a study trip to Finland. Yesterday, over a reunion lunch, he reported the following first-hand findings:
– Teachers in Finland enjoy a very high social status. The minimum entry qualification is a Master’s degree plus teacher training, but even with these credentials, it is still very difficult to get into teaching because admission to the teaching profession is extremely competitive.
– Once employed by a school, teachers are fully trusted by management. Principals never observe teachers’ lessons to ‘monitor’ their performance.
– Parents have full confidence in teachers. They respect their professional decisions and never challenge their practice.
– Teachers have full autonomy on how they teach. They do not have to follow a unified grade-level scheme of work. They decide on their own progress and pedagogy. Parents never query teachers on why their lessons and homework assignments are different from those conducted by the teacher next door.
– Children begin to be taught foreign languages from Grade 3, and by the time they reach Grade 7, they are already learning a fourth language.
– The learning atmosphere in the classroom is active yet orderly. When students take part in group activities or whole-class discussion, they participate actively Yet, when the teacher conducts whole-class teaching, they listen attentively. My former student cited this example. During lessons, teachers often have students work on elearning tasks on mobile phones and iPads. Yet, when the teacher resumes whole-class teaching, no one touches their electronic gadgets any more. In the words of my former student, the children are 能放能收。
– Teachers have full autonomy in planning assessments. In fact, students do not have their first public exam until Grade 12.
– Teachers are highly proud of their profession.
This is my dream education system. Students have high academic achievement (we have all heard of Finland’s performance in PISA) because they enjoy learning, not because they are subjected to massive amounts of homework and exam drilling. Teachers have high pedagogical effectiveness because they are true professionals who enjoy teaching, not because of occupational sticks and carrots.
Are you now thinking of migrating to Finland? Well, there is one thing we may not envy Finland of. According to my former student, their latest sales tax stands at 24%.