Local educators attend summit to learn how Finland tops in rankings.
THAILAND HOPES to learn and perhaps implement the highly successful educational reform of Finland, where nearly a third of the adult population was uneducated a mere six decades ago.
Today, Finnish education unarguably ranks among the world’s best.
More than 100 Thai teachers and educators attended the Educa 2018 Pre-Conference Finnish Teacher Education Forum at Kasetsart University yesterday in the hope of learning exactly how Thailand can improve its educational quality.
For much of the 21st century, Finland has been one of the very top performers in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), a study administered every three years that tests the reading, maths and science abilities of 15-year-olds in developed nations.
Thailand has not fared well. Thai students’ scores in 2015 PISA showed a drop despite the fact that the country has been pumping more and more funds into its educational sector and trying hard to implement educational reform.
At yesterday’s forum, Professor Hannele Niemi from the University of Helsinki told participants that the idea of “free school for everyone” was solidified in her country in 1968 through the Comprehensive School Framework Law.
“That law also stipulated that all citizens shall have an equal opportunity to receive basic education regardless of age, domicile, financial situation, sex, mother tongue or residence,” she pointed out.
Niemi, who is also research director for Unesco, said the law also engaged municipalities as local providers of education.
Finland’s educational sector has since gone from strength to strength. In 1970, a new law was passed to prescribe massive in-service training for all teachers.
During the 1980s, Finland’s educational sector started placing a strong emphasis on mixed ability groups, special-needs education support, inclusion and assurance that a learner can always continue in the system.
“Our school law of 1998 then accorded importance to responsibility, civilisation and connection to national development,” Niemi said. “Pupils are groomed for growth into humanity and into ethically responsible membership in society.”
She added that Finnish education also sought to provide pupils with knowledge and skills needed in life.
Sanna Vahtivuori-Hanninen, adviser to the permanent secretary of Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture, believed teacher education was a key success factor in Finnish education. A high percentage of Finnish teachers hold a master’s degree.
“Because we have highly qualified
teachers, we can produce excellent students,” she said.
In Finland, teachers are well respected and the profession is popular. Very few teachers jump to other fields. A survey by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reflects that Finnish teachers are happy with their profession. Findings show that more than 80 per cent of Finnish teachers say they would choose to become teachers if they were told to decide again.
“Teachers and high-quality teacher education are the core of the Finnish education system,” Vahtivuori-Hanninen said.
She added that Finland was also supportive of teachers’ life-long professional development.
“We also support their collaboration and networking,” she added.