Finnish National Board of Education: So many questions, and so little time #SCILFinland

“The objective of Finnish education…is to guarantee all people…equal opportunities and rights to culture, free quality education and pre-requisites for full citizenship.”

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Our first full day in Helsinki started with a session at the education authority. While it was formally titled “Learning from PISA success”, the realty was an informal conversation on a range of factors that characterised the system here.

The education system is based on flexibility and diversity, with an emphasis on broad knowledge. The strongest message was trust through professionalism, rather than an approach of top-down imposed accountability measures.

Some key elements of the discussion:

Pre- primary education from age 6, not full time and not compulsory, however 98% of children attend

Basic education starts at age of 7

Students spend the first 9 years – one school, primary and middle school as one. In many cases children spend six years with one teacher

Teachers have completed Masters in Education Science (the science of education). This is the entry level for the teaching profession. A place in teacher education is highly competitive.

Informal, yet quality relationships between teachers and students.

High regard for trade-professionals in Finland. Vocational education is central to the education system

190 days in the school year. Among the shortest – 600 lessons per year

Parent involvement is quite low, because of trust in the system. This society trusts public institutions.

No inspections of schools from government authorities, trust and autonomy

High level of autonomy in teacher training institution. Pre-service teacher education covers areas of pedagogical, didactic, thesis and practice. That is all that is mandated. As soon as possible, start observation in teacher training.

There is bi-partisan consensus on direction of education, despite a change of party in leadership. So should the ruling party change, the educational vision remains.

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