A Change of Mind

What can we really learn from Finnish education having the “Finnish Education" phenomenon being around for nearly a decade?

Last night I watched two documentary clips about Finnish teachers invited to teach for a week in England, primary school and secondary school. Teachers in Finland, as we know,  are highly respected and scrutiny selected professionals. I was really eager to learn these two teachers’ magic as to how they would handle the lessons and students differently from teachers that I know of and styles that I am familiar with. From the teachers’ teaching and their reflection, two themes I found quite interesting emerged in their beliefs.

First, both the Finnish teachers seemed shocked when the students responded to their instruction with an unruly manner. Respect and knowing the boundary between teacher and students was an obvious pre-requisite for students of such age groups. If teachers could expect that students express forms of respect toward others, it must be a manner that comes from places other than schools. Etiquette such as appropriate behaviors in class or in the restaurants may be a form of knowledge that we can teach to the children, but mannerism is more than that. It is values that deeply rooted in the culture and expressed in daily life. In this case, it is a cultural belief of how one should treat another being realized in the classroom.

Second, the Finnish teachers were also surprised at how course content was hastily introduced to the students with little freedom aside from the curriculum. To the Finnish teachers, lessons shall be created according to the students’ learning pace instead of rigidly following a curriculum that appeals to the notion of how average students can perform and achieve. Teachers’ respect for individual differences was demonstrated by making sure that the learners have fully grasp of the learning concept at a deeper level and utilizing possible approaches to reach the learners. As in the primary section, we could see the teacher encouraged the learners to use manipulatives and she led lots of games and activities in different lessons accompanied with her lecture.

Indeed, Finnish success is a goal for many countries but it came from a national beliefs of respect of human beings. So I think that leads us to two questions:

  1. Do we agree with such belief as an important element to produce quality education?
  2. If so, how can the education system move towards that direction at different levels? At the level of adult education, family education, school system, teacher education, teacher selection and curriculum design.





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