Can’t import the “Finnish approach” – cultural roots

A ‘guest post’ via Jerry Becker:

” Received from Stefan Turnau, Sunday, January 2, 2011 in response to the posting on “Shanghai Schools’ Approach Pushes Students to Top of Tests” on January 1st, 2011. You might want to take a look at http://www.teachers.tv/videos/the-human-factor where what follows can be found plus a great deal more, due to Nigel Bispham who is a deputy head teacher from Cornwall who visits Finland to discover why the country scored so well on the international OECD PISA assessments.”

I’m afraid the “Finnish approach” can’t be exported wholesale to any other cultural context.
A by no means exhaustive list of aspects that make the Finnish approach work (in my short experience as a Brit who’s lived here in Helsinki for 7 years and has a daughter in primary education at the moment):
1. Finns have a deep and lasting respect for the teaching profession and education in general, people aspire to be teachers!
2. Parents respect the job teachers do and let them do it (they are not well paid but they enjoy high status). The government lets teachers get on with teaching,
3. Parents are reminded several times a year to come into the school anytime to observe lessons or any other part of the school day.
4. Teachers at all levels hold master’s degree qualifications in pedagogy and are left to get on with it without too many restrictions.
5. All facilities are in good repair and teaching aids are plentiful (with little damage from arson and vandalism because kids are generally protective of their schools and use the playground areas after school).
6. Active after school clubs from everything from art to athletics etc.
7. Short and sweet school days (e.g. 8-9 year olds 9 till 1/2pm).
8. Small class sizes (20-25).
9. Many kids have an early sense of self reliance from looking after themselves in the afternoons.
10. Kids here also get to roam free, expend a lot of energy, climb trees and skin their knees.
11. And so on….. 

I think I can sum it up by relating a somewhat minor bugbear I do have with the Finnish Ed System and it is that my daughter’s favourite expression is “Teacher says….xyz!” to put her parents right!

I think if you ask any Finnish school kid who the 10-15 most important people are in their lives, there is a good chance that their teacher will figure in there for many? How about in the UK, top 100?

I think the things that CAN be imported are ideas that allow a refocusing away from testing and performance by giving teachers more autonomy, a focus on quality rather then quantity of teaching, higher level academic teacher training qualifications, improving the status of teaching as a profession.
I’m afraid the “Chinese approach”, very different but equally successful, cannot be imported for the same reason.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ian Chia, Dale Jarvis, rwd01 and others. rwd01 said: Cultural context of things are vital to understanding them RT @joe_bower: Can’t import the “Finnish approach” http://bit.ly/gxGwdG #edchat […]

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  2. Why couldn’t we;

    1. Implement nationalized standards.
    2. Require all teachers to have masters degrees.
    3. Allow automony to all teachers to develop lesson plans to reach objective No. 1.
    4. Fund all school districts equally.
    5. Give all of our school children high quality meals and healthcare.
    6. Have the same teacher for grades 1-6.

    I fail to understand how these concepts are cultural. I understand the argument that finnish culture is diffrent than ours but I don’t see how the methods they have employed cannot be replicated. I have no idea how the above methods would work in the U.S. but I disagree that they could not be implemented here.

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    • The anti-poor, pro-rich, anti-worker, pro-billionaire culture we have in the US is the main problem, I think.

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