A group of teachers from South Korea has arrived in Helsinki for a four-month teacher-training programme. The main objective of the programme is to provide the participants with ways to enable change in their respective educational environments and institutions in South Korea.
I met with our Korean guests during a boat sightseeing tour in Helsinki’s archipelago. They had arrived in Finland one week ago.
“So far it has been so beautiful!” said Ms. Dabin Lim excitedly. “The sea and the scenery are so beautiful. Compared to metropolitan centres in Korea, Helsinki is very different.”
Mr. Kyunhnam Kim also noticed the uniqueness of Finland’s capital city: “Almost everything has been new here for me. Helsinki is a very quiet city, different from cities in Korea.”
According to Mr. Kyunhnam, the way of life in Finland seems calmer. “Finnish people are quiet, but they can enjoy their lives more slowly, and be made happy by small things,” he explained.
Learning through Comparison
The academic experts heading the programme are from the University of Helsinki’s distinguished teacher training school, and the project is coordinated by the University of Helsinki Centre for Continuing Education HY+.
“It has been a great pleasure to see the enthusiasm our Korean guests have brought with them,” states the project director Ms. Minna Saadé from HY+. “I can already see the knowledge exchange being very successful over the following four months.”
During the training programme, the teachers will gain a theoretical and practical understanding of effective educational methodologies. They will gain the competencies necessary to develop these methods and practices, and to share them with their own colleagues back home.
“I want to learn about the Finnish education system, and see the differences between the Finnish system and our system; what is better in Finland, what is better in Korea,” Mr. Kyunhnam explains.
Ms. Dabin tells me that Finland’s education system is quite well-known in South Korea. “I knew things about Finnish education before I came here, because it is so popular,” she states.
“In the Finnish education system they think about equality; it’s really important to all students,” Ms. Dabin continues. “I heard that for example in the Viikki Teacher Training School you have primary, lower and upper levels all in the same building. That is kind of surprising to us, because it’s really different.”
Ms. Dabin finds that there are also many similarities between the Finnish and Korean education systems, but she, like Mr. Kyunhnam, is interested in learning through comparing them. “I want to know more about the differences between Finland and Korea, and what is the most essential thing in your education system. I want to study that,” she concludes.
Everyday Life in a Finnish School
As part of the training programme, the Korean teachers are going to immerse themselves into the Viikki Teacher Training School of the University of Helsinki. There, the participants are not only going to observe the lessons, but also partake in them.
“They are going to understand the functions, the ways, and the values that underpin learner-centred education and relationships between pupils and teachers,” Ms. Marja K. Martikainen, principal of The Viikki Teacher Training School, explains.
“It is really important for us to get the participants involved in the school’s everyday life,” she stresses.
The Viikki Teacher Training school’s role in all its actions is to be part of the University, and function as a normal school as well.
The school has experimental and development functions, University research, theory, and practice, all under the same roof. “This is the goal we are aiming at also with our guests from South Korea,” Ms. Martikainen says.
She tells me that the school receives numerous visitors every week, but thinks it is important to have more participants in these kinds of long-term training projects. “This is a very significant programme for us,” she states.
“We are very eager to develop these kinds of programmes, because they really get deeper and more into the Finnish education system, and help to understand the background and why things are being done the way they are,” Ms. Martikainen summarises.
During the training period, the participants are guided by the school’s own staff, some of whom are teacher trainers or PhD students themselves. Therefore, during the interaction with our guests from South Korea, the Finnish students get to learn from the Korean education system as well.
Writer: Saara Kankainen