The Education System In Finland - A Success
Reading, Math and Science
I've wanted to write this hub for a long time. It's about the education and school system in Finland. I'm not sure how well known Finnish schools are in other countries. I do know that people in some other countries are aware of the great results Finnish students have gotten in the PISA studies. Finnish schools are among the best in the world, when skills like reading, math and science are measured.
My First School
Most children start ”pre-school” at the age of 6, where they learn the basics before they start school. During the year in pre-school, the children get to know their future class mates. The teachers in pre-school teach the children to cooperate and behave well by playing and interacting by role play, and there's no competition. Everyone gets attention and the children are often devided into smaller groups, so everybody in the group can speak more and feel that his or her opinion is important. In my son's pre-school class there are 20 children and 4 teachers. The school days are from Monday to Friday and their days are 4 hours long. Even if the days are short, the children are developing very much during the two semesters. They are then ready to start school. If someone isn't ready for school at the age of 7, they can go to pre-school for yet another year. That isn't very unusal. Eevery child's abilities are measured and tested before they begin school.
The first years in school, the same class has the same teacher. That way the teacher really gets to know the children and their parents. The children also learn to know and trust their teacher very well during the years together.
The school days are not long. Usually they start at 9 am and end at 1 pm or 2 pm. The older the children get, the longer the school days get. The longest school days are six hours. From 7th grade when the children are 13 years old, all 5 school days a week usually are six hours.
Children in pre-school, 1st grade and 2nd grade can be at ”daycare” before school starts in the morning and after school ends in the afternoon. This time of the day children are more free to do what they want.
I've heard that Finnish children don't have much home work. I'm not sure if that's true. I think they have two or three home works every day the first years. From 7thgrade you'll have more teachers and more homework. Usually you change school from this grade and you'll have new class mates.
After the Basic Education
The basic education is 9 years long, but many students continue their studies in another school to specialize in practical or theoretical studies.
After your basic studies you have many options. There's the "gymnasium" where you go to broaden your knowledge in many different theoretical subjects. After graduation, you can apply for the university.
If you'd like to do something more practical after your basic years in school, you can apply for schools in the fields of trading, art, music, care and agriculture. Many students choose to apply for a "vocational school", where you learn a profession in three years. There are many professions to choose from.
Ususally students with good grades choose the "gymnasium", which is a good option if you want to keep studying at the university after your graduation. The "gymnasium" is for those who want to study hard and learn much in 3 years. You need to clear several international tests that are held the last year of your studies. The same tests are taking part at the same time and on the same days in whole Finland.
You can also combine your theoretical studies with practical studies. These studies are very consuming, but it's getting more common that young, talented people choose this option. It gives you more options after you have graduated. You can either start working, because you've learned a profession, or you ca keep studying at a university.
If you have diifficulties in you studies already during the basic school years, you can apply for a school for students with special needs. There you usually learn a profession in smaller groups.
To sum this all up, you go to basic school for 9 years. After that you go to the 2nd level with usually 3 years of studies. After that you can apply for university or a kind of polytechnic high school and study for yet another years depending on what you want to become.
It's very common to start studying as an adult in Finland, too. You can work during your studies if you are lucky to find a job, where they allow you to take som time off when you are in school. To learn a profession both practical and theorethical at the same time is a good option. There are also adults, who go to school without working, and they are paid to do it. You can apply for different kind of grants to be able to study as an adult.
MySecond and Third School
In schools in Finland, every student is unique. Some are good at reading and some are good at baking. The most important thing when you start school, is to learn how to read. If someone has difficulties, they get special help from the so called ”special teachers”. Some students also have another person, a type of school assistant, who helps them with other things that are hard for them to do. Hardly no students are put into a school for people with special needs. Instead they go to a regular school and are helped and assisted by people who are working with the teachers.
From 7th grade students can be in a class with students with different difficulties if they can't keep up with a regular class. There they get more help and more attention. When I was at that age and went to school, students who simply were tired of school, could go in this special class. Nobody is left alone and abandoned because of their difficulties in school. They are helped by professional people around them, who are working together with the teachers and the parents.
Freedom, Respect and Discipline
So, what's the success behind the Finnish school system? First of all, teachers are respected by students and parents. Teachers have a freedom to teach the way they want and parents trust them. Schools and parents are also working together. They have at least two meatings with all the parents every year. The teachers also have individual meatings with the parents twice a year to talk about their child's needs and developments in learning. As a parent you can call your child's teacher anytime to discuss things. Finnish parents trust their children's teachers. This begins already in daycare and pre-school.
As a Finnish citizen myself, at first I didn't think of the relationship between students and teachers, or parents and teachers. Later on, I thought it may differ from other countries. The relations are very relaxed and you always call the teacher by their first name. You never use Mr. or Ms. in any situtations in Finland. The use of first names are common in all situaions. Teachers can even use nicknames when they're talking to their students. Even if the relationship is relaxed, students show respect to their teachers.
Teachers in Finland are respected. Not many who apply for the studies to become a teacher get in. You have to have very good grades to start your studies to become a teacher. You study for approximately five years and have a masters degree when you finish. Your studies are not just theoretical. You also teach a class and do things practical, and your teaching is judged by a more experienced teacher. This is the case with most educations in Finland. If you for example study for four years to become a nurse, you spend months in between on different hospitals to practice what you've learned in the theory.
You would probably think that teachers are well paid in Finland. In fact, they aren't. It's just an attractive profession. Both students and teachers have a long summer break. It usually starts in early June and school begins again in mid August, and that's also when students go from one grade to another.
Even if teachers in Finland don't spend many hours a week in a class room, they plan their work before and after school during the rest of the 40 hour week of working. Teachers are indpendent and can teach their students in different ways as long as they follow certain guide lines. If a teacher decides to go out in the woods to teach about birds on a biology lesson, he or she is free to do so. Nobody tells a teacher how the students must be teached.
The breaks between the lessons are usually 15 minutes, and during these 15 minutes children go outside to play. They are not allowed to stay inside unless it's colder than 5ºF. At the lessons, nobody talks except when you are asked a question or when you work in groups. All students stand up at their desk and are quiet when the teacher walks into the class room. They can sit down when the teacher tells them to. The children are saying prayers before and after the lunch. That's a good way to calm everybody down. I'm not sure if this is the case in schools elswehere in Finland, but to us, living in the Finnish Bible belt, it's a natural thing. Even if Finnish students have a realaxed realtionship to their teachers, there are many rules to follow in the Finnish schools. Somehow teachers, students and parents work together and respect each other. These things put together and help from preofessional people around them is probably the success formula for the Finnish educational system.
The Costs of Education
In Finland there are no private schools. There's no need for that. We pay high taxes in Finland, but we get much in return. One of the benefits is that most schools are free. Children and youngsters even get a free meal every day. Children are allowed to bring some snacks if they have a long school day, but no candy is allowed. When you have finished basic school, you only pay for your books. At university you pay a very small amount every semester. You have to buy your books, but you don't need to pay much for a meal.
Much money is right now being spent on the children, at least in the municipality where I live. My children have gotten a new daycare, a bigger pre.school and they will soon have a bigger school.
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