And now I know why.
I’ve always read the world league tables in education in awe. Year after year, Finland is at the top. How is it possible for a nation with a population of two million less than that of London to have such excellent teaching standards?
It’s especially prominent when you realise that there is no standardised testing in Finland, there are no school inspections and the school curriculum is only updated once every 10 years.
It turns out that the education system is built for trust, mutual respect and as little stress as possible for the teachers involved.
It also seems that the Finns have adopted a “working together” attitude, not the idea prevalent in the UK or America that it is teachers and unions vs. the government and parents.
As an example, only 3% of teachers in Finland feel under pressure from parents, this is against America’s 40% of stressed-out, struggling educators.
When the curriculum is updated, it’s done with consultation from education experts and teaching unions.
The good relationship between parents and the government starts as soon as a mother is expecting. A pregnant woman can expect no less than 16 visits and appointments with healthcare professionals during the whole of her pregnancy. But anyway, more of that in my upcoming blog post about family life.
While I was in Finland I had the opportunity to visit a teacher training school. During the lunch break, we were given an authentic Finnish school lunch. Even following the changes Jamie Oliver has pushed for with school lunches in the UK, our meals are still unimpressive in comparison.
The other main thought I had was trust. Teachers are very highly educated in Finland, all having Masters degrees as a minimum requirement, but the teaching profession is held in such high regard that it’s seen as equivalent to a doctor or lawyer. Their workload is far less than that of a British teacher, yet their pay is pretty much equivalent.
Schools are small, and with limited testing they have not become the vast exam factories of the UK education system. School inspections never take place, with instead school governance making sure that the institution is functioning as it should. There are two parent school governors per class. Digital forms on many school websites are available for parents to email teachers, teachers can phone back in as shorter time as ten minutes.
Bullying is also taken extremely seriously, with police getting involved in cases if need be. It is a criminal offence to bully in schools.
The Finns are a practical people and this is proven by their handicraft classes. Rather than the usual sewing classes in Britain where at the end of a term you might produce something vaguely close to a tea towel, Finnish school children make speakers for Spotify, an electric guitar, or anything they choose. They teach for actual practical day-to-day knowledge, rather than just fact learning.
Learning is a co-operative environment, where, for instance, more able readers from a class of pre-school children will read to the less able in groups of five. This shows the children that their peers can do it. They’re also more likely to read at a pace ideal for children of that age.
As we were told many times, the Finnish invest in their children, they see them as the future and the most vital resource to spend public money on.
It’s a model we could all learn from.