The Secret of Unique Finnish Teachers
Updated: Nov 13, 2021
In my opinion, there are two important issues behind the curtain of success of the Finnish education system; The first is the importance they attach to special education, and the second is their teacher training system.
As a teacher of the Republic of Turkey, I have to admit that I was envious of the education they received and said "I wish it was mine". What makes them so special? I will summarize in three points. With your permission;
1. Selection of quality teacher candidates
It was my master's thesis topic and I have researched the subject deep into its internal organs, so my words are based on numerous researches. Before the teacher programs, Finnish middle school children also take a national exam with multiple-choice questions in order to determine their average success, just like in our country. As a result of this exam, those who are successful academically are eliminated. However, as in our country, the institutions that train teachers that are placed on the same level with other professions are not immediately entered in Finland.
Since the concept of teaching is so crucial, you must prove your personality, communication skills, and field proficiency in addition to academic success in order to enter teacher programs that provide valuable education. For this reason, there is the second phase called VAKAVA, which was started in 2016 and which was prepared as a result of the joint work of 7 big universities in Finland. In this exam, each candidate is presented with one or two books by the state related to his field and the candidate is asked to study them. Then the candidate is subjected to a written exam based on this information in the book.
Is it over? No, it's not over! Let's say the candidate licked, swallowed, memorized, passed the exams, then? Then, each university determines a separate exam under its own roof. Some do oral interviews, some do demo lessons, some do group interviews. But they all have a common question; "Why do you want to be a teacher?". The candidate who cannot answer this question honestly is said to "go make some observations, get the spirit of a teacher and come that way". That student goes with his passion for improvement, trains himself for a year, and takes the exam again.
According to researches, only 1 out of 10 applicants is eligible to enter teacher programs.
I had a Finnish friend who studied music teaching. The joy and motivation of the boy surpassed even me. I just asked out of curiosity; "How many times have you gone through these stages?". “Five times,” the boy said without embarrassment and added, “but I'm finally here.”
2. A program that trains quality teachers
It's not a myth that every teacher in Finland has a master's degree, but it comes from the system itself. Teaching there is based on the 3+2 system. If you chose to be a teacher, you have to do whatever you do and study those five years. 3 years as undergraduate, 2 years as graduate. In the program consisting of 300 ECTS, an excellent solution that can cure occupational dementia has been brought. Each teacher can choose a minor while choosing a major. So let's say you will be a classroom teacher, but you can also take physical education teaching classes as a minor. Thus, you can change the field according to the need at the school. The principal of the school where I did my internship had worked as a physical education teacher for 30 years. However, he was bored that year, saw himself reluctant in physical education and wanted to switch to history teaching, which is his minor branch.
So what do these courses contain? Theoretical knowledge of skills that should exist in 21st century teachers such as communication, sociology, pedagogy, creative thinking, and socrative approach are instilled. In practice, there are mini-schools called "Normalikoulu" established within the body of each university. Each pre-service teacher goes here for 50-hour teacher practice lessons and implements the lesson plans that they previously created in collaboration with their colleagues. Think like a lab. Unfortunately, since the language of the teacher programs is Finnish, I was not able to attend the group lessons and see the lessons one-on-one. But for some reasons I have no doubts about its authenticity.
3.Quality teacher performance and performance sustainability
Don't worry, I'll cut this short. You ask why? Because I think that a teacher who has been selected and trained in these standards no longer needs to be questioned, tested, supervised or evaluated, and the absence of an "inspector" system should be proof of what I have said. A teacher with an ideal of lifelong development and learning in an environment of perpetual trust and cooperation, where well-being is high, will already find a way to improve itself. However, besides this, the state is always on the side of the teacher, who takes years of experience into consideration, not daily performance.
If what I'm talking about sounds like a utopia to you, then for me, squeezing the concept of teaching into a 7-week program(in Turkey) sounds like a dystopia in itself. You have to start somewhere, for example, from the saying "Teachers, the next generation will be your work"(Atatürk).