keskiviikko 21. marraskuuta 2012

Culture and school - why is finnish education the best in the world

In Finland, we call teachers by their first names. I barely even know the last names of all of my teachers. Or then we have nicknames for some of them. Almost the only person we would use "you" in a plural form or "sir" is the president, so I'm not really used to that. In here I've had many (mostly kind and usually somewhat amused) remarks about not speaking politely. You should always refer to your elders, and especially teachers as madams or monsieurs, and use "vous" instead of "tu". That's normal to everyone here, but for me it seemed really formal at first.

In my opinion young people here respect authorities more than in northern Europe. Not just that they speak to them more politely, but otherwise too. Not that the youth in Finland or scandinavia would disrespect them, I just think the culture is more individual there in every way, and the authorities don't have such a big role. The family is very important here, they spend a lot of time with their families and eating together every day is a must. Young people here don't move out as young as they do in Finland, here it's completely normal to still live home when you're 22 or even older, while in Finland young people generally start thinking about moving out when they're 18. I've also noticed that parents here have an important role in setting the rules and being responsible far longer in their children's lives than in Finland, speaking both mentally and economically. 

I think one of the reasons for that is the different school system. In Finland, the compulsory education ends when you're 15 or 16, after nine years of school. After that, you can choose whether you want to continue to upper secondary, vocational education, or stop going to school at all. Not many people want to stop though, they know they won't get a good job at 16 without any higher education. And you actually have to apply for the school you want to go to, the schools choose their students based on their diploma from compulsory school. This means that young people have to take responsibility of them selves already at 15 and actually think what they want to study, and work in order to get to the school they want to go to. In here, the five last years of school are the same secondary school, with the same class, the same teachers and the same building. I think this leads to the students not taking it seriously, they think that they just have to be there, and that they don't have to actually work before university. In my class there's twenty three students, and eleven of them have been held back at least once during their secondary school. This has to say something. In Finland, the pupils know they're not forced to be in school, that they have to work for themselves, not just because it's the law. 

I've always wondered why the finnish school system is told to be the best in the world, and now I'm finally figuring out the reasons. In Great Britain, they've changed the age of being able to leave school from 16 to 18, in order to decrease the amount of students dropping out. This might not be the right answer, since now people may stay in school, but won't have to take the responsibility of their own studies, which leads to bad grades and attitude. I mean, the reason why young people hate compulsory school, but then after they really want to get into university is because after they're suddenly able to stop studying if they want to, they realize that they actually want to work to be able to do the things they want with their lives. It's human nature that when you're forced to do something, you don't want to. By dividing secondary education into two different school departments in Finland, they provide the same effect, it's just a few years earlier, which leads to working harder and getting better points. 

Even the rules in the schools here stay almost the same for five years. If the people are not given the opportunity to take more responsibility of their actions, they won't. Instead they will keep doing the same thing as when they were thirteen. Finnish school system focuses a lot on teaching different ways to study. We're thought about different ways to deal with the material we're given, and finding the best way for ourselves. I think it's important that when you're in school, you actually "learn how to learn", not just study sentences by heart. That way you'll be able to study on your own. In here, the teachers give all the notes and all the answers literally from word to word, preventing the students having to actually go trough the material themselves and think about what's important and what's not. They even tell them precisely which words to underline from a text. Then when they go to university, they won't have the tools to do the same on their own. I think that is also one of the reasons that pupils here get lower points or don't even pass all the exams, even though the time they use for studying at home is much more than what I'm used to in Finland.

This might be kind of a bold opinion but these are just things that I've noticed while being in school here. These are surely just part of the reasons for Finland being at the top in education. I will still whine about school back home after I return, that's for sure, but at least I'll respect it much more than before. 


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