Another old (by Internet standards) article but a goodie. The information contained is very much still relevant. Starts with an anecdote of a teacher doing all that he can to teach a boy who’s just emigrated to Finland and is falling behind. As you can guess his life is turned around thanks to his teacher and his attitude to do ‘whatever it takes’ to educate students who don’t seem to be learning as well as the rest.
“Whatever it takes” is an attitude that drives not just Kirkkojarvi’s 30 teachers, but most of Finland’s 62,000 educators in 3,500 schools from Lapland to Turku—professionals selected from the top 10 percent of the nation’s graduates to earn a required master’s degree in education. Many schools are small enough so that teachers know every student. If one method fails, teachers consult with colleagues to try something else. They seem to relish the challenges. Nearly 30 percent of Finland’s children receive some kind of special help during their first nine years of school. The school where Louhivuori teaches served 240 first through ninth graders last year; and in contrast with Finland’s reputation for ethnic homogeneity, more than half of its 150 elementary-level students are immigrants—from Somalia, Iraq, Russia, Bangladesh, Estonia and Ethiopia, among other nations. “Children from wealthy families with lots of education can be taught by stupid teachers,” Louhivuori said, smiling. “We try to catch the weak students. It’s deep in our thinking.”
There was a period of time when the education system in Finland was being heavily talked about in Singapore news. It seemed such a good system with students loving school and many excelling in their core subjects and why can’t this be brought to Singapore to revolutionize the education system here. I also recall there being a lot of debate about how this system couldn’t be transplanted because whilst the Finns are ok with their children all being good but without anyone standing out (apparently it’s a Scandinavia thing) that’s not the same in competitive Asian countries where everyone wants their kids to be the best (it’s an Asian thing).
I think that’s missing the point. Yes we do have a highly competitive education system in Singapore and we do have other problems with our education system (more on that another time). But what strikes me as different — on another level entirely — is that in Finland teachers are a highly regarded in schools and society at large. Only the best and brightest get to become teachers and they seem to relish the opportunity to teach and impart knowledge to their students ‘whatever it takes’.
That’s a far cry from some of the teachers I remember in my school days who just wanted to get the work done and go home. Not that I blame them, we were terrible students. But in a system where parents have low regard for their schools teachers (many in Singapore turn to private tutors to bring up their students grades) you can see why students have such a lousy attitude towards school.
I do remember some good teachers who really went the extra mile to make sure we understood what was being taught. Despite all the extra admin work, extra circular work, additional duties that were thrown on them they would still make the time to sit with us after school and go through the same lesson they’d taught us that same day to make sure that we finally grasped those concepts.
Teachers like that earn the respect of their students and are an immeasurable blessing to our futures. We need more teachers like that and a system that encourages and allows such a nurturing relationship to develop.
From what I’ve read about the Finnish school success that is the system that works and that system is transplantable. We just have to all work together to make it happen. The government, the schools, the teachers, the parents and the students.