The Finnish Education System

Introduction

Graduates coming out of the education system provide the source of the workforce for businesses. All businesses have to grapple with 3 areas: survival, sustainability, corporate governance and citizenship.

For example, Microsoft has this statement about corporate citizenship: “Microsoft has an enduring commitment to working to fulfill our public responsibilities and to serving the needs of people in communities worldwide. Fundamental to this commitment is the role we serve as a responsible global corporate citizen.”

Corporate Citizenship

Source: Corporate-Citizenship website

The business place needs people with divergent thinking; social skills (team skills) and project management skills.

A major concern to the HR practitioner is the quality of the education received by its prospective employees.

Interesting Observation about Finnish Education System

There are interesting observations about the Finnish education system that most people fails to mention:

The Finnish system is an unselfish system that is learner centric and targeted the welfare of society as a whole. Here are my reasons:

First, no political parties that “owns” the education policy. The post of the Minister of Education is on the high priority list. In fact, 20 members of 200 members in the Finnish Parliament have teachers background.

In contrast, the American system is a system of indoctrination of the young – to be obedient; be conformist; not think too much; do as told etc


Noam Chomsky: Education Is a System of Indoctrination of the Young

Second, there is equity – one system that is comprehensive for everyone. There is no parallel system. The focus is to make that one system work.

Third, the education system incorporated innovation and entrepreneurship into its curriculum. It is not a factory system that churns out bodies for businesses to use.

We realized that small businesses provide jobs to the business owners and for others; and in that way not only props up the economy and keeps people out of social welfare. The big businesses will always have stringent but discriminative hiring and selection process; and every make efforts to cut down labor costs and squeeze as much out of a worker.

Fourth, the quality of both teachers and teaching and freedom of the teachers to do their utmost to meet their accountabilities to ensure students learn. Contrast that with the commonly found school system:

  • Teachers have short lesson period to deliver their lessons;
  • Teachers dispense knowledge; whether students learn anything or not.
  • Weak spots are not dealt on one to one or through remedial lessons by teachers; but by homework and private tuition.
  • Principal are powerful.

Fifth, the business of education is to ensure learning takes place.

Sixth, it is cost and time effective.

Extracts from Wikipedia on Education in Finland

First Extract

Finnish early childhood education emphasizes respect for each child’s individuality and the chance for each child to develop as a unique person. Finnish early educators also guide children in the development of social and interactive skills, encourage them to pay attention to other people’s needs and interests, to care about others, and to have a positive attitude toward other people, other cultures, and different environments.

The purpose of gradually providing opportunities for increased independence is to enable all children to take care of themselves as “becoming adults, to be capable of making responsible decisions, to participate productively in society as an active citizen, and to take care of other people who will need his [or her] help.”

Second Extract

Classes are small, seldom more than twenty pupils.From the outset pupils are expected to learn two languages in addition to the language of the school (usually Finnish or Swedish), and students in grades one through nine spend from four to eleven periods each week taking classes in art, music, cooking, carpentry, metalwork, and textiles.

Small classes, insisted upon by the teachers’ union, appear to be associated with student achievement, especially in science. Inside the school, the atmosphere is relaxed and informal, and the buildings are so clean that students often wear socks and no shoes.

Outdoor activities are stressed, even in the coldest weather; and homework is minimal to leave room for extra-curricular activities. In addition to taking music in school, for example, many students attend the numerous state-subsidized specialized music schools after class where for a small fee they learn to play an instrument as a hobby and study basic solfège and music theory using methods originated in Hungary by Kodály and further developed by the Hungarian-born Finn Csaba Szilvay and others.

Reading for pleasure is actively encouraged (Finland publishes more children’s books than any other country). Television stations show foreign programs in the original languages with subtitles, so that in Finland children even read while watching TV.

The Finland Phenomenon

Here are the video clips (Part 1 to Part 4) produced by Robert A. Compton

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Here are points extracted from the videos

  1. Education is for its own sake.
  2. The business of school is learning. It is not sports nor extra-curricular activities.
  3. The education system is for developing curiosity, imagination, social bonding, network.
  4. The education system develops the whole person; including family and social values; preparing its students for work and citizenship.
  5. It focus on developing each student as a unique individual.
  6. It covers a broad curriculum.
  7. The curriculum for basic education is the same for all.
  8. Education is free including lunch.
  9. The Ministry establishes the core curriculum but left it to the school to decide on develop the other part of the curriculum.
  10. There are many choices.
  11. It is an integrated system where students get to see the connection between classical disciplines. The arts are well integrated with other subjects.
  12. It has a very comprehensive education system at the high school level that prepares students for jobs immediately out of high school.
  13. It focuses on learning rather than drowning or cramming students with facts. Learning is acquired through hands on experience, self-discovery.
  14. To run it, the best people are employed as teachers. Teachers must have minimum master degree.
  15. However that master degree is research based. That means it is intense.
  16. Student Teachers gains the experience of developing their own lesson plans and getting feedback (critique).
  17. The education system relies on trust. The principal does not evaluate teachers. There is no inspectorate. The Ministry does not approve textbooks for use. Teachers have the freedom to select the textbooks that they want to use.
  18. The education is moving from just an academic based system to a dual (academic and applied) based system.
  19. The education system is learner centric.
  20. The facilities are built for the learner.
  21. The teacher to student ratio is small.
  22. Up to 3 teachers for each class.
  23. The lesson period is long enough to ensure learning takes place for example 75 minutes.
  24. There are few classes in a day, to allow the students more time to do projects and to go into further depth. The students have choices on how they do projects.
  25. In the classroom, teacher have 60% talk time and students 40% talk time.
  26. In the classroom, the focus is on developing higher order skills (thinking and collaborative skills). It is more important to know how to think rather than how to regurgitate subject matters.
  27. Classroom exercise is project based and ample time is given, example 5 weeks, to allow enough time to perform research. It is about exploratory learning.
  28. The teacher has opportunities to spend more time on weak areas with individual students.
  29. The education route is flexible; that is multi-paths so that learners have many choices.
  30. Education in Finland relies very little on testing. Less testing allows students to develop their own learning style.
  31. Innovation and entrepreneurship education is already in the Finnish subject education 50 years ago.
  32. Teachers, who are fully unionized, follow state curriculum guidelines but are accorded a great deal of autonomy as to methods of instruction and are even allowed to choose their own textbooks.
  33. Teachers are given autonomy in what they teach and how they teach. Principal also teaches.
  34. It also focuses on development of social and interactive skills and to care about others.
  35. Finnish early childhood education emphasizes respect for each child’s individuality and the chance for each child to develop as a unique person. Finnish early educators also guide children in the, encourage them to pay attention to other people’s needs and interests,to care about others, and to have a positive attitude toward other people, other cultures, and different environments. The purpose of gradually providing opportunities for increased independence is to enable all children to take care of themselves as “becoming adults, to be capable of making responsible decisions, to participate productively in society as an active citizen, and to take care of other people who will need his [or her] help.”
  36. There are individualized attention to weaker students or weak areas that students may have.
  37. Students are given opportunity to learn life skills.
  38. Students do arts and crafts.
  39. No grade retention or expulsion.

Comparison of Education Policies

Source:  Pasi Sahlberg website

Western Model

Source: The Finnish Education System and PISA (Published by Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland)

Change of Educational Steering

Source: The Finnish Education System and PISA (Published by Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland)

Finnish Education System

Source: The Finnish Education System and PISA (Published by Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland)

Finnish Education System 2

Class Sizes

Source: Finnish National Board of Education

Lesson Distribution

Source: Education in Finland Presented By Mikko Hartikainen (Finnish Board of Education)

Teacher Curriculum

Source: Education in Finland written by Tarmo Toikkanen, Researcher at Aalto University Media Lab

REFERENCES

The Finnish Education System and PISA
http://www.minedu.fi/export/sites/default/OPM/Julkaisut/2009/liitteet/opm46.pdf?lang=en

Education System in Finland
http://www.minedu.fi/export/sites/default/OPM/Koulutus/koulutusjaerjestelmae/liitteet/finnish_education.pdf

The Secret to Finland’s Success: Educating Teachers
https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/secret-finland%E2%80%99s-success-educating-teachers.pdf

Finnish Education in A Nutshell
http://www.oph.fi/download/146428_Finnish_Education_in_a_Nutshell.pdf

The Integrated School Day – improving the educational offering of schools in Finland
http://www.allianceforchildhood.eu/files/book2012/QoC%20Book%202012%20Chapter-2.pdf

Content and Language Integrated Learning methodology at Finland`s schools: organizational discourse
http://elibrary.kubg.edu.ua/3202/1/Rudnik_Y_SEND_!3_FLMD_PI.pdf

Education in Finland written by Ritva Semi, OAJ (The Trade Union of Education in Finland)

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