At the beginning of October 2018, a group of school leaders from India came to Finland to gain insight into the Finnish education system and school leadership. I interviewed two of the visitors, Dr Preeti Doddwad and Ms Amrita Naorem, to shed light on why the Finnish education system is something people from all over the world are interested to learn from.
I was eager to know, how the school leaders from India decided on coming to Finland. According to Dr Doddwad and Ms Naorem, they both ended up here through an Indian book publishing company, S. Chand Group, which has sent already multiple groups to participate educational visits organised by University of Helsinki Centre for Continuing Education HY+. (Read more about the Eduvisit concept below.)
“Most of us have heard that the Finnish education system is the best in the world. Anybody who’s in the field of education wants to have an opportunity to come here”, Dr Doddwad explains. “When the publisher offered us the opportunity, we just grabbed it”, she continues.
On Ms Naorem’s opinion, it is outstanding that the Finnish education sector is interested in understanding the reasons behind Finland’s PISA success and, in case of the rankings go down, looking into the reasons behind that. “Looking into the mistakes is looking forward. As the head of my institute, I would not be content with somebody always telling me ‘you’re good’, otherwise the competitiveness disappears and that may slow you down a bit”, she elaborates.
Ms Naorem continues: “From my perspective, as a school owner, what would I want? I would want to leave behind a good legacy for my school. The system should be running perfectly, and when I’m not there, it should not stop. The system here in Finland has been working for so many decades and it continues to work.”
What is So Special about Finnish Schools?
The school leaders got to also experience the Finnish school system in action. They visited three comprehensive schools where they learned for example the fact that in Finland teachers have more autonomy than in most countries.
“You have a system where the teachers are allowed to make their own lesson plans, their own curriculum. That is fantastic!” Ms Naorem tells excitedly.
Dr Doddwad was impressed how the children in Finnish schools are allowed to be themselves. “The idea that children are independent thinkers and can make decisions will eventually make a difference in their lives”, Dr Doddwad explains. “That is a really amazing thing that is taught to the children from a very early age”, she summarizes.
What Dr Doddwad also liked about the Finnish schools is that, on her opinion, they are very friendly to learning. “I think our education system is lacking this”, she states.
“Let the Child Learn”
As Ms Naorem points out, even though our visitors learned many great things about the Finnish education system, it is not possible to take it all back home.
So what could the school leaders apply to their own systems? “The culture of accountability and trusting the teachers”, answers Ms Naorem right away. “In India we have a fixed curriculum and a national testing board, so we cannot give autonomy to all the teachers, but in some way within our school system I would love to give it a go”, she continues.
“What we can adapt is the way the learning happens”, Dr Doddwad states. “We can’t really decide what is taught because that is all quite dictated for us, but we can let the child be oneself and have the freedom to learn their own way of understanding the concepts. This, I think, we should take back home and let the child learn”, she ponders.
Even though not every aspect in the Finnish education system is applicable in other systems, learning from it can clearly be an eye-opening experience. “We can only improve when we learn from each other, so I would definitely recommend this Eduvisit to other school leaders”, Ms Naorem concludes.
Writer: Saara Kankainen
What is an Eduvisit?
University of Helsinki Centre for Continuing Education HY+ offers Eduvisits, which are customized professional educational visits to Finland showcasing Finnish practices in education. The Eduvisit includes lectures at the University of Helsinki and for example visits to Finnish schools and the Finnish National Agency for Education. If you are interested in the Eduvisit concept, you can read more about it on the Eduvisit website.
The next open Eduvisit programme for individual participants is organised in November 2019. Read more and enroll here!