Teachers of Moscow schools – winners and finalists of the annual contest “Teacher of the Year” got an opportunity to get acquainted with the organisation and daily practice of Finnish preschool and school education by visiting educational institutions of different levels in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area in the last week of February 2020. The school visits, which included communication with both teachers and students, as well as attendance at several lessons on various subjects, contributed to the understanding among Moscow colleagues that the notorious “Finnish education system” is, above all, a complex interaction between teachers, parents and children, which contributes to the achievement of the goals of general education and social objectives of preparing educated, free, responsible and independent citizens. The knowledge, skills and abilities required for full integration into adult life are formulated in the national curriculum framework. The quality of a free secondary education, as well as instruction in the mother tongue, is guaranteed by the Constitution. In addition, free school meals are provided by the State from 1st to 9th grade (compulsory secondary education). Municipal authorities, in accordance with regional specificities and objectives, in consensus with school authorities, parents and representatives of stakeholders (trade unions, employers, public associations, etc.) define local curricula only with a general indication of educational objectives. In general, this ends the role of state regulation. In Finland, unlike most countries, there is no school supervision and teachers are not subject to constant inspections. The specific content and choice of forms of education is entirely in the hands of teachers, where everyone chooses the most convenient and effective (in their opinion) methods, formats and ways of testing knowledge. Up to the 9th grade in Finnish schools there are no centralised tests and thus it is impossible to set strict criteria for assessing the results of pedagogical work. All this guarantees not only the declared, but also the real freedom of professional self-realisation without the threat of sanctions for “wrongly chosen methods”. At the same time, the level of Finnish students’ knowledge is still one of the highest in the world.
The headmasters of the schools visited have repeatedly explained how this was made possible – the main focus is on the weakest pupils. Supplementary education is offered in several subjects, especially in the official language, which is the main barrier to learning for children from families of newly arrived immigrants. Comprehensive measures are taken to support weaker students and provide a higher average level of knowledge compared to other countries in the world.
Of course, this work often requires creative and unconventional approach in the work of Finnish teachers – the people mostly responsible for the quality of the education in the country. This is why the teaching profession is respected, prestigious, well-paid and in great demand in Finland. This is evidenced by the high level of competition and strict selection for admission to higher education and higher teacher training. Heidi Krzywacki, Professor at the Faculty of Education, University of Helsinki, spoke about this, as well as the teaching and training of school and preschool teachers in her report. Her presentation provided insight into the main structural elements of the Finnish education system.
The Russian colleagues showed an active interest in the study of the Finnish experience in general and in specific programmes, methods, teaching and methodical materials independently prepared by Finnish teachers, and were pleasantly surprised by the openness of the Finnish colleagues and their willingness to share their knowledge and experience. Both sides have repeatedly expressed interest in continuing to share their experiences. Moreover it was pointed out, that teachers from Moscow have advanced experience in the field where the position of Finnish education today is much weaker, namely, in work with gifted children. According to the Finnish side, systematic and quality support of talents is one of the main challenges for school education in this country.