Schooling in Finland, 2

Finland’s schools score consistently near the top in international rankings. However, pupils there spend the fewest class hours in the developed world.



bunch standard controversial
key (2) outskirts rolled into one
take off competition every now and then
envy struggle green with envy
trust ingredient cross-country skiing
giant kick off (2) P.E. (physical education)
achieve pilot project standard practice
virtually incredibly developed world
diversity delegation room for improvement
support left behind head teacher
gifted effortless core subjects
itch (2) consistency across the work force
proper in charge pay attention






On the outskirts of Helsinki, the Ranies are getting ready for school. Urmas and Tina have four children.

Three of this hungry bunch are all educated in the local state school. For the girls, it’s a short walk away.

For Branimanic Comprehensive, it’s a primary and secondary school rolled into one.

The first lesson in school in Finland — is relax. Take your shoes off when you arrive. And when you get into the classroom, call your teachers by their first name.

This is Maryana, and because her pupils stay at the same school for so many years, she’s been her teacher for most of their school life.

Maryana Arovaara, Teacher: “My students, my children grow up with me. And I see the problems that they have when they are small, when they come to school.

And now after five years, I still know, and I still see, what has happened in their youth, the best things that they can do.

I tell them that I’m their school mother!”

Learning foreign languages here is seen as key. For these eleven year olds, learning French is not their second, but their third language.

And when they are 13, some will speak a forth. But in Finland, success is not measured in winners and losers. Learning is more like a team game. The best and worse students in any subject are taught together.

Controversial maybe, but something they say works.

Miia Makela-Lukkarinen, School Teacher: “It’s important to have everyone in the same class. But of course that creates a problem every now and then because there are some that are really, really good.

For instance, they are really good in English. They are fluent. And there are those who need special attention. But of course, we try to give that to them.” says

Giving pupils extra help is standard practice. In this class, there are three teachers, Ana and Suni teach a double lesson. Mari just works with those who struggle.

And it’s the teachers here who would make any Education Secretary green with envy.

They are the key ingredients why in a subject like science, Finns score so high.

Teachers all have to complete a master’s degree.

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Trust is important here. In P.E. kids head off unaccompanied for long cross country ski.

And their effortless ease in achieving quality education, is shown off by one statistic: children here spend the least amount of class week in the developed world.

And get the best results.

Journalist: “What is the secret of Finland’s education success?”

The head teacher give his teachers much of the credit.

But another reason is the “T-word” again: Trust, this time in him.

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Osmo Korhonen, Head Teacher: “Nobody outside says that you have to do it like this, or like that.

And the feeling is that they trust us. This is my school; it’s not the politicians’ school.”

In countries like the UK and the US, education is built around the idea of competition, some schools will succeed — and some won’t.

Incredibly though, results at this school in Helsinki are the same as virtually any other school in Finland.

And that means there is no such thing as a failing Finnish school.

Finland’s success has kicked off a kind of “education tourism”: more than one hundred foreign delegations visited Finland last year.

But the woman in charge admits that there is still room for improvement.

Henna Virkkunen, Finnish Education Minister: “The Finnish system very much supports those pupils that have learning difficulties, but we have to pay more attention to those pupils who are very talented.

And now we have started a pilot project about it also. How to support those pupils who are very gifted in some areas.”

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We called on one of the country’s biggest success stories. What do Finnish business want for the future?

For the Finnish mobile phone giant, it’s about maintaining high standards in the core subjects, and consistency across the work force.

Ida Andersson, Education Manager, Nokia: “What we want is for the education system in Finland to continue doing a very good level in mathematics, science, and technology related subjects.

Being in a classroom with less talented people; it makes you as a talented pupil teach the other ones, to work in a group with different kinds of people, and to accept diversity.”

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So back to the Rania’s, and the youngest in their family.

Oso is six. And like all children in Finland, he won’t start a proper school until he is seven.

The thinking is that by then, he’ll be itching to start classes, but in the meantime, it’s lessons with mom. At home.

Journalist: “How was your day at school today?”
Daughter: “I really like them. They’re pleasant.”

Like Tina’s spaghetti bolanase, Finland’s success is part home made.

Tina Rania, Mother: “It’s very interesting to hear what they have done.”

They have a culture here of valuing education. And parents know they have a key role to play too.

Explaining why the Finns score high isn’t easy. And like other European countries, Finland has very little immigration, so when pupils start learning, language isn’t a problem.

But their system is built on the idea that less can be more. When you have relaxed schools, free from politicians, when nobody gets left behind.

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Pre-school, Nursery School. Students take off their shoes in class. True or false? Why do they do this?

. “I’m their ‘School Mother’.” What does this mean? Do they call their teacher “Mrs. Arovaara”?

Elementary School, Primary School
. Does the school separate fast and slow learners? How many teachers are there in some classes? Why?

Junior High School, Middle School
. The students only sit and listen to the teacher. Is this right or wrong? Is science education in Finland boring or fun?

High School, Secondary School
. What do the statistics say about Finland’s students and their achievements? According to the Minister of Education, what are the strengths and weaknesses of Finnish education?

. According to the head teacher, what are the “secrets” of Finland’s educational success? What is the philosophy of the US and UK educational system?

Vocational-Technical School
. “Finland’s success has kicked off a kind of ‘education tourism’.” What does this mean? Describe “Education Tourism”.

Community College
. What do Finnish businesses recommend or advise schools and students?

College, University. In Finnish culture, education is valued and important. Yes or no? Do only teachers and schools teach children?

High School Diploma
. Is your school similar to those in Finland (assuming you don’t live in Finland)?

Bachelor’s Degree, University Degree
. What is the social status of teachers (in your town and country)?

Master’s Degree
. What could or should teachers, schools, educators, governments do?

PhD. Doctorate Degree. Design your perfect school or educational system.

Post-Doctorate. What will happen in the future regarding education and schooling?


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