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If We Make Teaching a More Financially Attractive Career Will it Improve Global Education Overall?

According to the data released by the OECD it seems that our Finnish teacher’s salary is just above OECD average. It also seems that during our career the difference between the starting and ending career don’t grow much. If money is not the reason to become a teacher in Finland, so what are the reasons?

In our society education is still appreciated and this shows directly in the number of appliers to teacher education. For example the Helsinki University takes 120 starters yearly and under 10% of the appliers are chosen. The teachers have Master’s degree in every school level. The salary increases by the working years and you can also achieve a so called bonus, which is granted by the principal of the job well done.

I have a full autonomy in my teaching. I can choose the materials and teaching methods myself. Usually the teacher colleagues together choose the study books but I can still teach the way I want to, even with my own material. There are no school inspectors or. We don’t have standardized tests. The only exception is the National Matriculation Exam, which is for students at the end of an upper-secondary school.  I myself observe the learning daily and have my own tests when I think they are needed.I make my own tests for students or make them together with a colleague. We don’t give much homework.  The principals have conversations with teachers where they discuss and plan their future training. I feel that I have a possibility to be creative in my work!

The students have many breaks during the day. They go out and play together in the school yard.

In our society childhood is also about being together with your family and friends and getting a lot of active exercise outside. We don’t belong to stereotype of the hard-working, rote memorization of Eastern Asian study and work ethics. Many of these countries, like China, Singapore, and Korea among others routinely rank in the number one spots in both math and science. With totally different approach to education we have been in PISA research in the top during it’s beginning! Our education might be a better and healthier way to continue. Our results don’t lie.

Flexibility of the curriculum means that I know which contents belong to different year classes and what my students are meant to learn during the year. With my colleagues we can plan and carry out study modules with the best way we want. We of course take notice of the current local events. We can also arrange the core contents so that it supports the learning best. The curriculum isn’t a list of things to do it’s a guideline for our planning and executing our teaching.

Instead of control, competition, stress, standardized testing and a list ranking our schools we have warm relationships with our students and we collaborate well with our colleagues.  We feel we get highly professional teacher-led mentoring and assessment,  Of course we would like to be better paid!  But if you had the choice of the above conditions or a better salary, which one would you choose?

 

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB,  above is my answer to question of October:  If we make teaching a more financially attractive career will it improve global education overall?

How Much Time Should K-12 Students Spend at School During a Calendar Year

The K-12 schools around the world can differ from each other more than we think. I have been visiting quite a many schools and seen from great to sad ones. They can differ in their daily life from day structure to the teaching content not to mention the student’s status. I have seen schools where students move to one lesson to another without any breaks. I have seen schools where there is no space for students to spend their breaks. And then totally opposite; schools with breaks between the lessons and areas where they can spend their time. Students have an active role in their learning and making decisions.

Photo by Maarit Rossi. Children in Arusha, Tanzania

Let’s talk now only how much time students spend at school!

I am happy about the time students spent their time in the Finnish schools. They have 190 days in a school year, as I think many children have around the world!  But this information doesn’t show us the whole picture. How many hours do they spend at school in one week tells us more. What kind of school days do they have? Do they have a good lunch and snack if the day is long? Do they have breaks between the lessons? Do they have a place where to spend their breaks? Do students learn in the school or do they have to go after school? Does the quality of teaching influence to the length of a school day!

In Finland the minimum number of hours is in the following list:

• 1st and 2nd class 19 hours per week

• 3rd grade 22 hours per week

• 4th grade 24 hours per week

• 5th and 6th grade 25 hours per week

• 7th and 8th grade, 29 hours per week

• 9th grade 30 hours per week.

In high school, grades 10 to 12, the minimum number is 75 courses, each of which lasts approximately 38 hours.

In grade one they have 722 hours a year, amount of hours growing so that in high school students may have average 950 hours.

 What about the time used out of school?

15-year-old’s spent globally average of 5 hours on homework based on OECD study. Students e.g. in Shanghai spend 13.8 hours a week on homework and in Russia 9.7 hours. Students in Finland and South Korea spent fewer than three hours – the least among the 65 countries and regions surveyed – on homework each week.

What if that is not all? There are after schools! Yes, you read right, there are countries, like Japan, where most kids have school after school. It is possible that students in Singapore leave home at 8 am and return at 10pm! Asian countries have achieved good Pisa results, but there has been a rush of hours of study!

What if that is not all? There are after schools! Yes, you read right, there are countries, like Japan, where most kids have school after school. It is possible that students in Singapore leave home at 8 am and return at 10pm! Asian countries have achieved good Pisa results, but there has been a rush of hours of study!

How many hours does your child spend at school?

In Finland most of students, teachers and parents are satisfied with the time their children spend at schools. Finnish students spend less time at school than students in many other countries, they have a lot of breaks during the school day. They have free school lunch, transportation and free books. Now we are talking about ending the school later in June and starting later in the autumn. Other discussion is when it would be good to start the school? Pre-school starts now at the age of six and 1st grade at the age of seven in Finland.  Politicians are planning to advance the start.  I appreciate our system today. Finnish children have a childhood. Learning at the right age is like driving a bicycle. If you try too early or too late, the result is not the best.

Do you want your child to have a childhood?

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB,  above is my answer to question of September: How much time should K-12 students spend at school during a calendar year?

 

Making Curriculum Relevant to a New World

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB, this is my answer to this month’s question: “Making Curriculum Relevant to a  New World” 

The static old world has become a constantly changing unpredictable common village! In every corner people face the same problems or are at least are aware of them.  Which could be the real actions in the society to prevent the existence of terrorism and/or its spreading? How to make people to accept increasing population diversity? We all know very well the environmental threats, but how to change the direction of the development? WHAT should we teach to young people, when it seems that they have a lot to solve in the future? According to the Center for Curriculum Redesign (CCR) “We must deeply redesign curriculum to be relevant to the knowledge, skills, character qualities, and meta-learning students will need in their lives.”

How fast can national education system be changed through curriculum development? Do we need partly common global curriculum?

Curriculum has changed during my teaching time in Finland almost every tenth year. When I started my career curriculum mostly included exact descriptions of every subject and it has to be followed as the National Board of Education (NBE) wrote. Also NBE inspected the books publishing houses sold to the schools!

But then education policy changed. The reforms were made in the education system in the 1980s. Now local education providers —the municipalities—have broad autonomy.  Schools and teachers have been responsible for choosing learning materials and teaching methods since the beginning of the 1990s, when the national level inspection of learning materials was terminated.  We are valued as professionals in curriculum development, teaching and assessment at all levels. Now the core curriculum discusses values, learning, learning environments and general goals and aims, like learning of 21st century competences. The curriculum lists basic concepts in each subject but the list is just a suggestion —not obligatory.  We can plan and implement our teaching and assess students’ learning and learning outcomes, collaborate with other teachers and develop our teaching profession within the whole school context. We have a big responsibility concerning the way our students learn, but at the same time we can develop our own autonomy in designing the curriculum, using instructional strategies and assessment methods.

20161221_151931Photo: Maarit Rossi

Yes, my experience is that national curriculum can make a huge change – but is the change big and fast enough? This generation will live in global village – we need to know best education politics, latest knowledge of learning and learning practices to prepare them ready for the future!

We could have partly common curriculum in the areas concerning issues of the whole globe? How many countries have in their curriculum like some of the following text?  End poverty in all its forms everywhere. End Hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.   In 2015 the UN General Assembly formally accepted a new set of 17 measurable Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ranging from ending world poverty to achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls by 2030. You can read these goals and targets from https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics/sustainabledevelopmentgoals. National curriculums need to have similar global goals. Best way to put them in practice is to give teachers enough autonomy to implement them. #teachersmatter

 

What is the Best Gift You Would Recommend for Your Students this Holiday Season?

I was honored to be named in Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB. The bloggers on this list have been asked to contribute to Huffington Post’s Education blogs for 2016. This month we look to answer the following highly controversial question “ What is the best gift you would recommend for your students this holiday season?”

My December blog writer is Kirsti Savikko, my sister, Headteacher in Kähäri school,Turku, Finland.

In Finland we are closing our fall term at school. 18 weeks of hard labour! Well, not only hard  we’ve had some fun, too. We have familiarized ourselves with the new curriculum OPS2016 since August. Some things – hopefully – have changed a lot and some things have remained the same. We believe that students in ages 7-12 learn best by playing. In a good, educational play:

– you have to take others in condiseration

– you have to find your best way to reach the goal

– you have to follow the rules

– you sometimes have to find the right questions

– you sometimes have to play together with an other player

– you have to strive to the end – even if you don’t like the game!

I could go on this list forever but I think you’ve got the idea.

So what do I tell my students to do during the holiday? Play games? Perhaps. Get some rest? Sleep late? Forget the school? Read some extra? Reread the subjects? This list could also be quite long.

But what I really would like to give them is a gift. Not just any gift or present wrapped in a silver paper. The gift of dreaming.

I’d urged them to reminisce when they small, smaller than today. When they were small and they still believed in Santa (who honestly lives in Finland!). When December started, Christmas carols were heard in the malls, mother baked gingerbreads, father looked mysterious, everyone being nice and helpful…. To catch that feeling again. Waiting for something special to happen. Not really knowing what or when. But the sense of expectation, the warm feeling, the tickle in the stomach… that feeling is worth the search. It will give them a huge amount of motivation, duration and eagerness for the coming spring term.

joulua

Photo: Maarit Rossi

Sometimes the reality is something very different. There is no warmth around you. Nothing to expect. No one to share it with. And the future looks frightening. If you have this one gift – the gift of  dreaming, you can fight your miseries, you can leave them behind if only for a little while. Maybe the thing you expect and want most is the school start. There you have people who care about you. Want the best for you. And believe me, the school will begin again in January!

The things we want or need can be very different. But the ability to dream and hope is the one gift that can save us.

Joyful Season Greetings