The Finnish school system has received wide international acclaim, to the point that it has become an export product and profitable business for Finland
How did Finland build its school system? What is its success based on?
Pasi Kurttila, a Finnish education expert, says that one of the cornerstones in the Finnish success story is the high educational level of teachers. Teachers in Finland are expected to have a Master’s degree, which as research-based education guarantees the high professional standards of all teachers.
Kurttila is a lecturer in education and developer of learning environments.
“Post-graduate university education gives teachers tools for independent professional development.”
Teachers also have solid competence in critically evaluating learning materials and select the most suitable ones from amongst the offering.
Another cornerstone in the school system is the national core curriculum.
“When first introduced in the 1970s, the Finnish comprehensive school was highly progressive for its time, and our curricula are still based on a similar ethos. The novelty of it was in acknowledging the role of the learner in the learning process.”
According to Kurttila, the standard of the Finnish school system can partly also be explained with the high esteem that the teaching profession enjoys and the trust placed in teachers’ professional skills – and the skills of the students. Equally important is equality: while Finns are showing some concern that equality in education is eroding, in practice, all students have largely identical starting points on their academic paths.
“Regardless of where a child lives in Finland, he or she will be taught by a qualified and competent teacher.”
Kurttila also wants to stress the importance of teacher training schools, which are a unique system in the world. Teacher training schools are schools run by universities, at which teacher trainees practice their teaching skills in real schools under professional supervision. The teacher training schools also serve research, pilot studies and development projects in the field of education.
Teaching is a sought-after career
Teacher education is a highly popular discipline in universities. Kurttila is part of the panel selecting students for teacher training and knows that those who make it on the program are highly talented. For example, of the more than 2,000 candidates that apply for the University of Helsinki teacher training program every year, only 150 are selected.
Many of the tenets on which the Finnish school system is based are simple common sense. For example, constant inspections or testing was deemed unnecessary.
Kurttila has participated in European-wide education projects, through which he has come to see different educational cultures. If a system relies heavily on inspections and lack of trust, a teacher will expend a large part of his or her capacity on anything but teaching and interacting with students.
Technology supports learning
However, even the Finnish system is never ready and it develops constantly. In the future, students’ personal learning paths will require increasing emphasis. New technology supports students and their learning.
“The analytics of learning will gain a more central role, as we learn to make better use of previously gained knowledge in learning.”
Teachers will receive information at an earlier and earlier stage on a student’s self-determination capability or learning and perceptual difficulties – and will therefore be able to offer necessary support from an early stage.
In the future, teaching will be less based on subject boundaries or year. Students will be able to complete their compulsory education at a pace suitable for them.
According to Kurttila, our schools are traditionally geared towards supporting slower students while the most talented students are left with less attention. In the future, talented, quickly learning students will be able to receive more systematic support.
The boundary between structured learning at school and learning outside the school will become less defined. The school will become a more integral part of everyday life and the world.
Planning based on action
Emphasising individual learning processes demands a lot from the teacher as well as the learning environment. Kurttila refers to learning environments as complete entities that include the physical space, furniture, indoor air quality and lighting, but also learning software – anything that students have around them when learning.
Within such complete learning environments, the teacher and the student select the ones that are most age-appropriate and pedagogically the most suitable.
The design of school buildings will be increasingly informed by the way its users operate in them. The building does not constrict but facilitates multi-form learning.
In Kurttila’s opinion, Finnish school building design has progressed especially in the last few years. Previously, schools built first and only then was it planned how they could be used.
Today, it is understood how important it is to take the needs of different user groups and different functions into consideration at the design stage. More often than not, schools are multi-purpose spaces with sports and other activities taking place outside school hours.
New technology follows the development in education, making it possible, for example, to adjust the lighting depending on the use of a space. And yet, schools are, in a way, regaining their traditional position as community centres.
New learning models welcomed in Russia
Russian educators are showing great interest in the latest development in school building. Teemu Helppolainen, Head of YIT Housing Russia, says that education authorities, in particular, are recognising the importance of creating new types of buildings for learning.
As an example, he mentions a recent visit by Russian education authorities to new Finnish schools and how impressed the guests had been with what they saw.
He does not, however, believe that Russian school buildings can be changed overnight. There are a number of norms that must be met, how many square metres per student must be allocated, and the culture in general is to strictly standardise school construction.
“Developers are familiar with the requirements and not fazed by them, but we would love to offer options that are more suited for the modern learner.”
Helppolainen says that the new approach to school construction would also mean lower building costs. School buildings that comply with the strict norms tend to have a great deal of wasted space, which adds to costs.
Using school buildings for extracurricular activities would also bring savings, as separate facilities for different activities need not be built.
For further information, please contact:
Hanna Malmivaara, Vice President, Communications, YIT Corporation, tel. +358 40 561 6568,email@example.com
Teemu Helppolainen, Head of Housing Russia segment, YIT Construction Ltd, tel. +7 915 316 8216, firstname.lastname@example.org
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