In August 2019, a group of teachers from South Korea arrived in Helsinki, Finland, for a four-month professional capacity-building programme. The aim of the programme was to develop the pedagogical skills of the teachers who stemmed from a variety of different professional backgrounds. In this article, Ms. Dabin Lim, one of the participants, shares her thoughts and experiences of the training programme, the world-famous Finnish education system, and living in Helsinki, Finland.
“We learned that in Finland education focuses on student-centredness a lot, for example in multidisciplinary learning”, Ms. Dabin describes. “In Finland they really try to study more about multidisciplinary learning and practice it with their students. I knew this was a big buzzword in education.”
By the time the training programme ended in December 2019, the participants had improved their English language skills, studied pedagogical theories and practices, and immersed themselves into the daily life of the University of Helsinki Teacher Training School in Viikki.
To complete the training programme, the participants wrote research papers on the Finnish comprehensive school, phenomenon-based learning, and how to study basic skills in subjects such as maths and mother tongue. These Final Projects also intend to act as concrete suggestions for changes in the education system in their home provinces.
New Teaching Methods and Practices
The Viikki Teacher Training School is a comprehensive and general upper secondary school, and a department of the Faculty of Educational Sciences of the University of Helsinki. It functions as a neighbourhood school as well as a research lab, where pedagogical theories are put into practice, and new ones are created.
The Viikki Teacher Training School also provides practice for degree teacher students, in-service training, and basic training for prospective teachers.
During the school immersion and pedagogical training in Viikki, the participants got a chance to observe lessons, undergo an intensive job-shadowing period with personal mentors, follow the training of the teacher students, and fully immerse themselves into the ecosystem of a Finnish school.
According to Ms. Dabin, the participants picked up new ideas to incorporate into their own teaching back in Korea. “I’m a primary school teacher, but I’m also really interested in languages, for example English. I saw some interesting games they played in English classes at a primary level”, she recounts.
“The children played very actively, and it’s also really helpful to their language improvement”, Ms. Dabin describes. “This I really want to try and apply this to my students.”
At the end of the training programme, the participants prepared Final Projects that demonstrated their learning in the programme, and included plans and objectives for a development project, to be implemented in their own organisations in the Republic of Korea.
What Makes the Finnish Education System Different?
One big difference, according to Ms. Dabin, is that in Finland, teachers are allowed to be very independent in their work: “Teachers in Finland are guaranteed a lot of autonomy, because they are trusted. I know that teachers in Finland are very well educated and passionate, so I respect them and want to be like that as well.”
Why is a trust-based atmosphere so important? “That atmosphere is so nice, so maybe the success of the Finnish education system is made by teachers”, Ms. Dabin ponders. “The nation supports them, so they can do more.”
There are, in fact, plenty of differences between all the education systems in the world, but one ultimate goal for probably every one of them is to make as many people as possible learn.
“I heard that in Finland education is focused on equality. But the society is not equal, and we call the school a small society, so of course there’s a lot of inequality in schools. Some teachers told us that there’s no perfect equality in education”, Ms. Dabin says.
Although complete equality in education seems to be a part of a utopian society, it is still something worth striving for everywhere in the world.
“In Korea it’s a severe problem, inequality in education”, Ms. Dabin states. ”So we try to fix it, and we try to improve it. I think in Finland, they think the same way. They try to improve, and they try to fix inequality. So the world is the same, I think.”
Even though the Finnish and Korean education systems are not alike, according to Ms. Dabin, there’s a similarity in teachers’ everyday work: “In Viikki Teacher Training School a lot of teachers are so busy, there’s a lot of work. There are a lot of passionate teachers and they’re hard working. In Korea, we have a lot of paperwork, so we are busy. So being busy is the same.”
Ms. Dabin assures that the training programme in Finland has definitely been worth participating in, despite the differences between the Finnish and Korean education systems.
“This programme is so good”, she says. “I really appreciate the University of Helsinki and all the administrators of this programme, because they prepared it so well for us: English courses, job-shadowing, classroom observation, the Viikki Teacher Training School, everything! I really want to highly recommend this programme to others.”
In addition to the training experience, Ms. Dabin indicates she has found living in Finland in general to be very pleasant. “I love Finland”, she tells excitedly. “People always asked us, how about November in Finland. I know why they ask that, it is dark, I know, but I still love Finland.”
Ms. Dabin explains that her warm feelings for Finland were brought about by the quiet and calm atmosphere, which she finds suitable for herself. “I think I’ve had the most happiest moments in Finland“, she concludes.
Writer: Saara Kankainen
The Empowered Educators Programme was financed by the Jeollanam-do Province Office of Education, and managed by the University of Helsinki Centre for Continuing Education HY+. The programme was designed and executed in co-operation with the University of Helsinki Teacher Training School.
If you are interested in learning more about the training programmes and services offered by the University of Helsinki Centre for Continuing Education HY+, visit our website or contact us via the link below.