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FINLAND - Lifestyle of Education 1/2

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"Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything." "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

"Education is not preparation for life, it's life itself" "Of all our institutions public education is the most important. Everything depends on it, the present and the future." "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." "Finland's top-ranked world education system." "Finland, The world's most prosperous nation." "Finland, named the best place to live." "Finland is one of the world's leaders in academics performance. This top performance is also remarkably consistent across schools." "Finland once again takes the top spot in an international survey on the best places to live." "The best country in the world!" With all the western medias praising Finland as the heaven on earth, we decided to go over there and see for ourselves. Our first interest got sparked by the PISA results of their education system. With the highest total points, Finland has taken the first place in this program over and over again. We were wondering what could this nation of five million have to attract so much attention to itself. We went to Tampere, the third largest city in Finland with a population of approximately 220 000. The city, like all big cities in Finland is currently an university city, having one of the most respected and known polytechnics in the country. Tampere used to be the biggest industrial city, having 50% of all the industrial structures up until the 1950s, When it started developing to have a more important role in education. Education is a resource that can not be overestimated. In it's essence it is the shaping of the future of the nation. Due to it's importance and the high regard in which the Finnish education has been spoken of, and in order for us to understand it better we got deeper into it. Let's start with the basics to see how this whole system works On the bottom there is the optional preschool, meant to prepare youngsters for the education system The real educating starts at the age of 7 in comprehensive school, which contains the grades of 1 to 9 and an optional tenth, as a chance to have more time to plan further studies or to raise the grades. Leaving the comprehensive school at the age of 16, the young person faces the first choice. Whether to continue into the more academic upper secondary school or professional oriented vocational school. The upper secondary school students graduate with the matriculation examination, while the vocational school offers a professional qualification. After upper secondary they can also through the vocational, or from vocational to upper secondary, but both of those trees offer possibility to continue to the third level, which consists of the university and polytechnic. Like on the secondary level they can move from one to the other. We are concentrating on the upper secondary schools. Because they are the part making the Finnish education system, so unique. Upper-secondary school is known in Finland as lukio, coming from the Finnish word-lukea which means reading. One school year consists of five or six periods, depending on the school. The period is made out of five or six weeks with an exam week at the end. A class is 75 minutes and the most lessons you can have per day are five. The system is course based and it leaves a lot of freedom to students to choose how, where and when are they going to study. None the less there are forty obligatory courses and 75 required to graduate. Which also leaves a lot of responsibility to them, because they have to fit all of them into their schedules. The course based system also rates the progress individual rather than group structured as it is with the class based schools. It usually takes three years to graduate, but it can also be done faster in two, or two and a half years, or slower in four or three and a half years. At the end there is the matriculation examination The purpose of the examination is to discover whether the pupils have assimilated the knowledge and skills required by the curriculum of the upper secondary school and whether they have reached an adequate level of maturity in line with the goals of the upper secondary school. During our time in Tampere we got interviews with different types of teachers and other school employees. These interviewees came from two different upper-secondary schools. First we went at Sammon keskuslukio, Sampo upper-secondary school. Which was built in 2005, which makes the building very modern. The school is big both as a building and a learning institution. 965 students and about 79 teachers. We are the third biggest school in Finland. After Sampo upper-secondary school we got acquainted with Tampereen yhteiskoulu lukio, Tampere's arts oriented senior secondary school, which opened it's doors more than a hundred years ago, in 1901. The old school building was used as a fortress in the civil war 1918 which left several bullet holes on its bricks, so this art school has a grand history. Now it is a famous and popular private school, which makes it a little different from the others. Now, the thing that we are private, it doesn't make anything special, because the students here have the same responsibilities and rights as anybody else in any other school, but from the point of view of teachers and the headmaster particularly the headmaster said that managing, running this sort of school is more flexible we know the sum of money we have on the school's bank account and we are free to decide how to spend the money, so it's flexible we are not dependent on let's say the town council other schools are. But what is special, this school has an emphasis on arts, officially the name of the school means: Arts oriented senior secondary school. This is what makes us special. With a little help from our interviewees from these two schools, we got to know how this Finnish upper secondary school system runs in practice. The Finnish system is quite different than the systems in the rest of the western world. Because it's similar to university. Basically it gives the students greater freedom of choice. I do like the freedom of choice we have in the moment, but on the other hand, it also brings along a lot of responsibility. And not all the students are mature enough to take that responsibility. It helps you to grow up as a person, because it gives you a lot of responsibility and that really helps you to improve yourself. It motivates students. And they are probably more interested in studies than in a system where everything is compulsory. Each student chooses the courses they want to do individually, except for these first graders and their first periods when they get a schedule. Now that i am a second year student i can pretty much choose whatever i want, but in the first year we had certain number of compulsory classes. Like one class of philosophy and then we get to choose if we want to continue it or not. This course ideology makes the system more flexible, so the students can choose their own way. They can build their studies very individually. We have pretty liberal school system, which let's me choose courses and that leaves the responsibility of learning to myself. Not to the teachers and that's why, they can concentrate better on the teaching itself, not just worry about individuals not studying. Pupil is the best specialist about himself, so we should teach them, to teach themselves also. Most of the students don't know how to study and this is the first thing we have to teach them here. How to behave according to the procedures at this level. I have freedom to choose from a lot of courses. It build to this system some kind of market mechanism and it also makes teachers to work harder. You need to teach well in order for students to choose your courses. Instead of classes we have groups, so all the studying is done in totally different groups You don't necessarily know you will be working with for the next six weeks. Every time a pupil takes a course there are different people there. There's not one class that you belong to. This might be a bit strange, but, then again the students themselves say they are quite happy with this system. Particularly the students in our house, they find it easier to change groups, change environments We have a lot of people here and sometimes it's really crowded, but it's also really versatile so we have lots of different kinds of people and i think that's the best thing about a big school. Most students manage to do high school in three years, but for some people it takes up to four years. If you can't do it in four years you have to resolve to adult education and go to the evening school to finish your classes. This is one thing that is good about present school system, because if you are an athlete or if you have got other interests outside of school work you can prolong your high school to four years. If you do your high school in four years it doesn't mean you are a bad student, Sometimes it means that you are a clever student, if you want to study more or if you want to gain better results. There are quite many good things like it's very equal. In the whole country we have the same system. Every pupil in different parts of Finland has a good possibility to get good education and it doesn't depend on money. If i say some negative points, i think it might be a little bit too academic. Pedagogical system is too teacher centered, not enough student centered as it could be. We are making progress in that field, but still i think that the student is the learner and pedagogics should be revolving around him not just the deducting way of thinking of the teacher. I think our students are a little bit passive in the lessons, they should be more active by learning things. It's good but it could be better. Beside the upper-secondary school stands vocational institutions with the other educational path youngsters may choose after comprehensive school. The popularity of these schools has been growing year by year. They train you for a certain job, if you want to become a hairdresser for example or if you want to be a computer assistant, these are vocational schools, more to do with professional life. And the popularity of vocational schools is on the rise. So in the future high schools have to compete for their students. There should be more pupils who take this "lukio", but i think nowadays it's a little bit difficult, because vocational schools are very attractive. People want to get to working life quickly, they want to start earning money, because after high school what do you have, you have your matriculation examination and your white cap and after that you need to get some qualifications to get a job. High school does not give you any qualifications for working life you can only use your qualifications for further studies. If they choose vocational school they can also take the matriculation examination, because there are combined studies. That combine vocational education and high school education. So if they are ambitious enough they can do them both in four years, plus i almost forgot, you can always sign this apprenticeship contract. It means that you make a deal with a company, if the company is willing to invest in you they teach the skills needed for the trade and they might hire you at the end of your studies. So basically these are the options available. After all the theory we wanted to see some practice, how the lessons were actually run and what was essentially being learned. We were invited to a few classes and we used the opportunity to learn as much as we can. When walking in the classrooms we immediately noticed how well they were equipped and Sammon keskuslukio is quite a new sport and media oriented upper-secondary school we were proudly presented the school gym and the media purposed classrooms as well. All this equipment is being used splendidly by the students under the professional supervision of the teachers. Of course no matter how the improving technology is taking a bigger and bigger part in educating the students teachers are still essential. I think that in Finland still teacher is kind of respected profession. At the end of the year of 2010 Iltalehti one of the biggest tabloids in Finland did a survey to find out which professions Finnish people like and dislike and the professional of teacher, which is called "opettaja" in Finnish can be found in fifth place of the most respected professions, so what is it that makes Finnish people so interested in this career in question. How does the exact teaching happen and what are the best sides of being a teacher. Our teachers are well educated. After my high school i studied to become a teacher for five years. It was five and a half years, five-six years. I studied for six or seven years. After four years of theoretical studies i did my teacher training, that lasts for one year in Finland How high is the latitude given in teachers? The method that i teach by, of course i choose by myself. The things that i have to teach are also in the official curriculum, but i can influence on that. I have the curriculum i have to know. In a way, but yes, i feel i am quite free, i can decide what is important. When i started here i only thought the expressive arts one and two, or the art of expression one and two. But than the pupils wanted to have a third course on that and i also thought that two courses wasn't enough. And i talked with the headmaster and she said, ok we will make a third course. So i can influence what i teach also. I try to make my lessons varied enough i don't do the lessons in the same manner, this provides us with some sort of change. And why Finland is famous for the PISA results, the theory says we study the theory at school, the students apply the theory at home. When they come to school we check their exercises for example, so school-home-school. This sort of divisional flavor and that's how we get these PISA results. How does a course start with a new group? At first we get to know the names, we have to know them, i hope that the pupils get to know each others, because we are playing instruments and singing together. I start the lesson in the corresponding language, so it's English for an English class and Swedish for Swedish class. Than we study about study techniques they will have to start thinking about their study styles, whether they are the kinesthetic type or whether they learn by writing things, listening, or whatever the method. I try to explain the aims of the course and also the assessment, i am going to judge their work, given to me. And then i make sure that the students do something, while i am busy trying to learn their names, because i am LOST if i don't know people by their names. Back in the old days when we had about 350 students i knew each and everybody by name. But today it's impossible. Continue part 2/2.

Video Details

Duration: 20 minutes and 50 seconds
Country: Finland
Language: English
License: All rights reserved
Producer: Bright Recitation Pictures
Director: Buryan Alexiev & Riku Niemelä
Views: 625
Posted by: lifestyleofeducation on Sep 17, 2011


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