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3T’s in Finnish education – observations from British and Danish teachers

In September teachers from United Kingdom and Denmark visited Finland as a part of an Erasmus project. As in Bedford earlier in July, the groups observed time, talent and technology in three Finnish schools: SYK, Jalavapuisto School and Veikkola School. In addition we introduced to them Innokas Network, in-service teacher training, early childhood education in Finland, and Finnish educational context in the University of Helsinki. Here is a brief summary on their notions of the 3T’s.

Time

Teachers from both Denmark and UK felt that there is a lot of time to learn in Finnish schools. Pupils are not rushed and they are encouraged to be themselves. As we Finns know our schooldays are shorter and pupils have plenty of breaks during the school day. Especially British teachers felt that time could have been used more actively and effectively.

Talent

Groups saw three kinds of talents in Finnish schools.

  1. The amount of creative subjects in the curriculum arouse interest as well as programming and transversal competences. Especially teachers from UK saw a difference between assessment in Finland and in UK. In Finland the assessment system acknowledges teacher expertise. It is realistic and based on student learning and it is linked to the integrity of the profession.
  2. Teachers are highly educated and trusted to be experts in their field. Teachers’ professional development is well-planned and in-service training is well organized.
  3. Students seem to be calm, independent, engaged, resourceful and proud. Students can apply to bi-lingual classes or classes with other special focus areas such as music and science. During these short school visits the groups didn’t witness examples of differentiation or teacher-student communication of what the students have learned during the lesson.

Technology

Groups thought that the visited Finnish schools seemed to be well resourced. Compared to UK and Denmark, we have a boarder view of technology in our curriculum and in classroom practices. For example students were programming and using robots in two schools. The groups would have liked to see more of learning platforms, programs that support students with learning difficulties and more interactive use of interactive white boards. Also the examples of tech use in higher grades eg. in social sciences were minor. However the students’ freedom to use smartphones in breaks caused discussion.

Trust

During the Helsinki visit it became clear that each countries society makes the school what it is. In Finland it is seen as TRUST in many levels. There is respect for one another and the equipment. The trust runs through the system:

  • From teachers to students
  • From parents to teachers
  • From heads to teachers
  • From municipality to each school
  • From government

Danish teachers thought that we have a school where both parent and pupils believe in one’s authority. A good example of that is the fact that teachers are also highly respected in society. However they saw also a risk of being very dependent upon the individual teacher.

Trying to look at your society and school system from other country’s perspective is always fruitful. There are always customs and practices that are very deep in the Finnish culture such as the school lunch. Fortunately we had porridge day when we visited Veikkola School, because otherwise we would have missed a great debate of nutrition in different countries!

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– Kati, Innokas Coordinator

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Erasmus 2017 – Bedford

The main purpose of the 3T project is to compare and thus reflect the three different school systems of the participating countries. The schools involved in this project are from Finland, Denmark and the UK. In addition there is also a consulting firm from Denmark taking part in this project and their main focus is to get useful tips for building Danish schools as well as for their interior design.

The first step of the project was taken at the beginning of June in 2017 in Bedford, England.

Before the trip each participating Finnish school was given a task which was to be returned to the coordinator of the hosting country by email.

The programme in Bedford was divided on four days and the participants were equally divided into four groups so that each group had members from each participating country. The groups spent their first day in the school of their English member. During the day we had an opportunity to get to know the everyday life of a typical English school. Our hosting schools were Castle Newnham, Livinstone School, Westfield School and Biddenham School.

The second day was reserved for visiting various schools. Each group visited four different schools so the total number of school visits was 16. Each of these schools differed greatly from the others and they included preschools, primary and secondary schools as well as some private schools. Each group made observations during their visits.

During the third day we were given an opportunity to visit the University of Bedfordshire. On the campus we had a guided tour and visited e.g. their Faculty of Education and School of Teacher Education. The rest of the day was spent in making preparations for the last day. These preparations were made among the visitors of the same country and not as was originally planned.

As I mentioned before the purpose of the trip was to observe the English school system. The fourth day we spent in a meeting where one Finnish group and four Danish groups shared their observations from two previous days. This feedback with all its pros and cons was very informative and diverse.

Petteri and Aki, Veikkola School

Exploring school system in England on Erasmus+ 3T’s – project

On our Erasmus+ -trip to Bedford we had a wonderful opportunity to see out nearly the whole education system in England. We had time to follow lessons in different kinds of schools; we had conversations with students, teachers, principals and University staff.

Through Finnish perspective, English school system seems very complicated compared to ours. Instead of comprehensive school, there are systems in a system. Roughly, there are either independent or public schools but within this division, there still are many systems: nursery schools, preschools, maintained schools, academies, independent schools, special schools and pupil referral units. Independent schools cost a lot of money; public schools are free of charge.

A new system will take place in becoming September. Then so-called foundation stage will contain nursery and preschool (3-5 years). Primary school will be divided in two key stages: key stage 1 and 2 (5-7 years, 7-11 years). Secondary school will include stages 3, 4 and 5 (11-14 years, 14-16 years, 16-18 years).

Nursery school starts at age of three. All 3 and 4 year-olds are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare a week. The rest of daily care is charged. Free 15-hour childcare is also extended to the most disadvantaged 2 year-olds. In England, it is believed that education from early ages brings good achievements. Daily activities are more or less based on subjects like math, science and English. Same subjects are seen important throughout the whole school path.  During school days, children practice reading, writing, counting, measuring etc. We even saw four-year-old children writing sentences on their small whiteboards.

Studying and teaching at primary and secondary schools seems to be very hard and demanding for both students and teachers. Studying under pressure because of test results affects teaching and learning in various ways. SATS (Standard Assessment Tests) tests are taken at the end of year 2, year 6 and year 9. They are used to show child’s progress compared to other children born on the same month. In UK testing is a part of normal routine. School days in England are long, families either pay for their children’s school lunch or give them packed lunch and the amount of homework is huge.

One of the most awakening moments was a 15-year-old girl’s speech on her English lesson. The topic was quite provoking: Why school sucks? This youngster was worried about (endless) testing and what that kind of testing will do to young and growing children. It is a good question for every teacher!

We got so many new experiences during this school tour in England that we could never imagine. It is a true privilege to be a part of this 3T -project team!

Heli, Asema School and Raini, SYK

Exploring the 3 T’s in Erasmus project

Three Finnish schools from Innokas network had a change to take part in an Erasmus project with England and Denmark. The theme for this two year project is Time, Talent and Technology; the 3 T’s. The schools, which decided to apply, were SYK from Helsinki, Veikkola school from Kirkkonummi and Asema school from Hankasalmi.

During the first year of the project the aim is to observe the 3T’s in each country by visiting them and their schools. In June 2017 the Danish and the Finnish representatives visited Bedford in England for 4 days and during those days had a great opportunity of visiting altogether over 20 schools. Here are some of the observations the Finnish team made. The schools in the Bedford area were very interested to hear about these observations and use them to develop their schools in these areas.

taulukkoKuva yliopistolta

– Anu and Kati from Innokas

Collaboration with Hong Kong schools

Our collaboration with Hong Kong started in August 2016. 1K-class from Jalavapuisto School in Espoo was happy to get a friend school called Holm Glad No.2 (The Mission Covenant Church Holm Glad No. 2 Primary School). Holm Glad No.2 has started an academy project called ‘Learning by Doing’. This project aims to change culture at the whole school level for example, by giving teachers s supportive school environment that puts people instead of grades first.

 We have been emailing, sending pictures and videos telling about our class and school day whereas they’ve been telling about their school and taking us to ‘the trip’ around the town introducing their neighbourhood. And we also started a match ‘Checkers’ going on on WhatsApp between Hong Kong and Espoo.

We teachers have been chatting on Skype two times now. Listening to each others plans and hopes and of coarse getting to know each other better.We are going to go on our collaboration after the summer. 

 This far this has been rewarding yet challenging. We’ve been happy to learn about their culture which differs from ours quite a lot. Several emails and Skype chats have been a great way not only to get to know the teachers better but also their always optimistic way of thinking.

 Linda Mattila from Koulumestari School in Espoo has also been working with Holm Glad No.2 with me. Planning and sharing ideas together has been a great help when thinking about this in all.

BR,
Hanna Mäkynen, Jalavapuisto school, Espoo

FULBRIGHT VISITORS AND SPRING IN ASEMA SCHOOL

We had a great school day in March when we got two Fulbright visitors from USA. We don’t have visitors often so the children (and adults too..) were really excited and happy to meet them. We had planned water-themed workshops for the preschoolers and children in the first and second class. Also the children with special needs took part in the workshops. Overall we had six teachers and 50 students doing this project. The visitors were science teachers and they told me beforehand some very good tips for planning the day.

For many children it was a unique experience to meet people from another country because not so many of them have ever traveled outside of Finland. Nat and Stephen took part in the workshops doing the same things as the children. We found that nonverbal gestures are really international. The kids don’t speak English at all except some phrases. Especially I liked that Stephen and Nat went out with children and played with them. For example one of the preschoolers asked me what is kivi paperi sakset in English and when Stephen knew he meant rock paper scissors he was so happy to play with Stephen. The kids found out that the visitors also knew hide and seek.

We have been following spring coming to our village with SYK. It has been a really strange spring as you know. This year it has been snowing in May even in Helsinki. And suddenly we noticed that after few warm days we could find spring flowers near the school! My students wanted to send cards to those in SYK because the next autumn they will have a new teacher and I will continue cooperation with the new class. They also wanted to show what they have been learning in English lessons during the school year. So they filmed videos with iPads introducing themselves.

-Heli, Hankasalmi Asema School

On a Journey – a learning environment design project in Helsinki and in Beijing

On this May we have worked very hard with our new project called: On a Journey. Our project here in Finland and in China is about a library as a learning space. We work with our school library and so do my colleagues in ZhongGuanCun no 3 Primary School. We have shared ideas about design thinking in Education, and design in general. My students have visited their neighbor libararies and made some observations about places they think is a good place to work and to concentrate. Students have learned the difference between 2D and 3D, they have studied and learned the idea of a square meter and a scale. Now they are doing their ‘hands on’ part: beautiful floor plans and scale models are designed and made by student teams. How many fourth graders fit in a one square meter? Twenty..

We also got a photo of design work from a school in Zhengzhou, my partner no 2 Lu works there. Their idea of modelling and designing is very different from ours. But it is very good to see different ways of thinking, isn’t it!

BR,
Raini Sipilä, SYK