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Re: [xmca] Finland

Re teachers: on pp. 94-95 on *Finnish Lessons, *Sahlberg says that Finnish
teacher ed. does a good job of approaching the Deweyan ideal of
teacher-as-researcher. By obtaining both a content-area and educational
research master's degree, teachers are given the knowledge and
meaning-making habits they need to make autonomous decisions about
curriculum and pedagogy. They are also encouraged to cooperate with their
fellow teachers, which fosters support.  But with Jaana's post, I should
underline that I am merely describing what is written in *Finnish Lessons*.

Jaana, thank you for your comments and descriptions of Finnish
educational-political history, and reminding us of inevitable
imperfections. It's good to know that it neither came easy, nor is it
destined to continue on cruise control; it either happened overnight nor
emerged without real struggle. Rauno's background on the role of the
Agrarian Party was helpful for understanding this too, and Sahlberg does go
into a good bit of detail on this.

I guess my big question is whether Sahlberg is misrepresenting the reality
of Finnish education to such an extent that no excitement or hope is
warranted? He wouldn't be the first writer to gild the lily for the sake of
generating buzz. I think the popularity of the book comes from a need we
have here for some good news about public education. Public school is
actually under attack here in Philadelphia, as it is in Chicago, Detroit
and elsewhere. Not-so-crypto-privatization is apace through the growth of
charter schools. Any good model of public education is valuable for us if
we want to fight against these trends. I have a hard time seeing how key
improvements to the Finnish system over the past 30 or so years are not far
superior to the NCLB-inspired waves of "reform" over the past decade or so.

That said, we don't need a fairy tale. There were plenty of critiques to
make about Sahlberg's book on its own (my students offered plenty). But I
would like to use the book again alongside some published critiques.
Suggestions welcome!

Thanks again,


On Wed, Jul 17, 2013 at 7:45 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> The Guardian article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/**education/2013/jul/01/**
> education-michael-gove-**finland-gcse<http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/jul/01/education-michael-gove-finland-gcse>is very interesting in fact! Jaana, Antti, Jaakko, and the other Finns on
> this list. What do you make of the analysis given in this article?
> Andy
> Jaana Pirkkalainen wrote:
>> Hi,
>> this is a comment on this topic. It seems a bit odd and strangely funny
>> to read this discussion on Finnish educational system. That's beacause I
>> myself have lived through the development (or non-development) of it, first
>> as a child and then as a mother.Not that much has happend since my school
>> years in the 1960's and -70's comparing the exeperience of my son's path
>> and struggling some ten years back.
>> Firstly one should distinguishe the political struggle for the change of
>> doubleschooling system during the 1960's and -70's. And then the struggle
>> tangled with teachers education.
>> Until 1968 Finland had a doubleschooling system. Children entered school
>> at the age of seven (as still is the case) and went trhough for next four
>> grades together in "kansakoulu" (meaning some what like nationschool). Then
>> there was the split to either grammar school (in Finnish oppikoulu) which
>> were mostly private schools, with few exceptions (state schools) and to
>> "kansalaiskoulu" (no English translation for that, meaning citizens school)
>> which was a continuum of "kansakoulu" for next four years.
>> Grammar school was private school leading to higher education, and
>> "kansalaiskoulu" was towards vocational education. So working class
>> children went to "kansalaiskoulu" and then straight to work or vocational
>> education to become joiners, auto mechanics, waitresses and so on. And the
>> upper and middle class children went to grammar schools, then to high scool
>> and then to universites or second grade vocational schools and became
>> nurses, engineers and so on.
>> 1968 law of Primary school was established and in 1972 started the
>> implementation of the law.
>> But it was not the good will of the teachers, or professors of education
>> that made it happen. It was a strong leftist struggle for equal rights for
>> every kid to educate themselves, and also still the postwar situation of
>> the nation in some sense too. (Everybody of course knows Finland's
>> brother-in arms- relation with the Third Reich and the defeat in 1944 and
>> then peace treaty with the Soviet Union)
>> The opposition for the primary school act was harsh, and the teachers
>> education was tangled with that backlash. The business elite, some
>> professors of education and right wing politicians set up a foundation
>> called Support Foundation for Free Schooling (Vapaan koulutuksen
>> tukisäätiö), which had its primary reestablish private schools, testing and
>> assesment. They did this by influencing the teachers education system. The
>> Foundation ceased operating in 1991. By then they had been able to change
>> the course of the development of Finnish educational system at least in
>> three levels. Firstly they were able to intervene the selection of the
>> students for teacher education in universities, secondly they had a strong
>> hold of the educational departments and thirdly they managed to take over
>> most of the educational admiministration.
>> This is a very short and brief overview of post-war Finland, the main
>> poin being that Finnish sosciety is still or again struggling the same
>> issues as back then. The romanticizing "branding" of Finland or its
>> educational system is *not* -- for many parts -- true today.Or has ever
>> been.
>> Socioeconomical status and residential area are linked the overall well
>> being of children as they are all over the world. But what is quite
>> incompatible with the goals and intentions for the Primary School Act in
>> 1968 -- parents education still designate their childrens educational and
>> vocational path.
>> So Finland with its educational system is not a dream land. Sorry to
>> disappoint you folks, the struggle goes on!
>> - Jaana
> --
> ------------------------------**------------------------------**
> ------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
> Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts
> http://marxists.academia.edu/**AndyBlunden<http://marxists.academia.edu/AndyBlunden>