27 March 2015

Finland's Dynamic Education System

Reflection on Pasi Sahlberg's essay at The Converssation

This is one of the many things that I am liking in the Finnish education system. Aside from putting high regard and social status to teachers, the country treats teaching as a 'dynamic' (rather than static) learning process. Now, Finland is again hitting international headlines with their new 'decentralised' experiment of 'phenomenon-based' learning and teaching through an 'interdisciplinary' approach.

It has now been a year since I've been given an opportunity to teach here in Finland. Though I teach at the higher/university education level (which is a different ballgame from the much appreciated basic/school education system in Finland), I always remind myself that the current generation of Finnish students enrolled in our master's programme have been products of the successful education reform process that Finland undertook since the 1990s — an education system and process that is substantially different in method and principle from what I had undergone. Moreover, our master's programme, where I am part of the core staff, at the University of Jyväskylä is an inter-faculty initiative that includes students and faculty members from the Faculty of Education, which is recognised as Finland's leading expert in teacher education and adult education, as well as a major exporter of education. 

Mindful of this dynamism in the teaching profession in Finland, during the last year I have audited many lectures on how teaching is done by colleagues and availed of the university's privilege for academic staff to allot some of our work hours for professional improvement by enrolling myself in several trainings as well as in some courses learning with students themselves in the same classroom. It's demanding for a fresh post-doctoral academic due to the very competitive condition of the profession these days especially for a foreigner in Europe's academia. But on second thought this is good — indeed, much better and desirable than being complacent, stale, sterile, or bored. 

The constant challenges of creativity, innovation, and change keep us on our toes. 

An interesting note here from Pasi Sahlberg: 
"You may wonder why Finland’s education authorities now insist that all schools must spend time on integration and phenomenon-based teaching when Finnish students’ test scores have been declining in the most recent international tests. The answer is that educators in Finland think, quite correctly, that schools should teach what young people need in their lives rather than try to bring national test scores back to where they were."

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