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The secret to the world's best education system - FINLAND

What are Finland's strengths? Education in Finland is a system with no tuition fees and with fully subsidised meals served to students. The present Finnish education system consists of daycare programs (for babies and toddlers) and a one-year "pre-school" (or kindergarten for six-year-olds); a nine-year compulsory basic comprehensive school(starting at age seven and ending at the age of fifteen); post-compulsory secondary general academic and vocational education; higher education (University and Polytechnic); and adult (lifelong, continuing) education. 

So, here are some pointers that have helped the 'Finns' achieve their educational feat.
  1. Finland does not give their kids standardized tests.
  2. Individual schools have curriculum autonomy; individual teachers have classroom autonomy.
  3. It is not mandatory to give students grades until they are in the 8th grade.
  4. All teachers are required to have a master's degree.
  5. Finland does not have a culture of negative accountability for their teachers. According to Partanen, "bad" teachers receive more professional development; they are not threatened with being fired.
  6. Finland has a culture of collaboration between schools, not competition. Most schools, according to Partanen, perform at the same level, so there is no status in attending a particular facility.
  7. Finland has no private schools.
  8. Education emphasis is "equal opportunity to all."They value equality over excellence.
  9. A much higher percentage of Finland's educational budget goes directly into the classroom than it does in the US, as administrators make approximately the same salary as teachers. This also makes Finland's education more affordable than it is in the US.
  10. Finnish culture values childhood independence; one example: children mostly get themselves to school on their own, by walking or bicycling, etc. Helicopter parenting isn't really in their vocabulary.
  11. Finnish schools don't assign homework, because it is assumed that mastery is attained in the classroom.
  12. Finnish schools have sports, but no sports teams. Competition is not valued.
  13. The focus is on the individual child. If a child is falling behind, the highly trained teaching staff recognizes this need and immediately creates a plan to address the child's individual needs. Likewise, if a child is soaring ahead and bored, the staff is trained and prepared to appropriately address this as well.
  14. Compulsory school in Finland doesn't begin until children are 7 years old.
What can we learn from Finland? Two things stand out for me; the higher qualification required to be a teacher at any level and the fact that this phenomenon is driven by government-owned schools. I have always spoken for non-profit schooling as a platform for driving real change and development in the country!  

Please tell us what you think.


Helping The Shy Child

I have been researching on ways to help shy children become less withdrawn and function easier in school. Educators are often faced with a subtle or strong inability of shy children to express their feelings, thoughts, and opinion; which also tends to affect their grades and relationships among other students. 
I am especially interested in ways to help them cope well in school as this goes a long way to making the individual a well adjusted person. I found this piece, brilliantly written by Leah Davies that will help many parents and teachers to handle their shy child in more successful ways. Read and use accordingly.

The Shy Child
By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

Shyness is often misunderstood because it is not one emotion, but a mixture of fear, tension, apprehension and/or embarrassment. Shy children seem to lack confidence and are self-conscious especially in new surroundings or when they are the center of attention. Changes in the environment and school pressures are also factors that affect a child's demeanor. Symptoms of shyness may include gaze aversion, a soft tone of voice, and/or hesitant or trembling speech. It is noteworthy that shyness is not necessarily a negative attribute. Many shy children exhibit an ability to please and think for themselves. Being reserved can also be a worthy personality trait. It is when shyness is severe that educators need to be concerned.

Heredity, culture, and environment can each play a role in a child's shyness. If a child's family tends to be aloof and sequestered, there is a likelihood that the child will be somewhat inhibited. In addition, if the adults in a child's life constantly call attention to what others think of the child or allow him or her little autonomy, shyness may result.

The problem with a child being extremely shy is that he or she may be perceived by peers as unfriendly and disinterested. Children may avoid playing with a shy child, thus hampering his or her social development and increasing the chances of a child having low self-esteem. With few friendship or communication skills, shy children may become lonely and depressed, which can interfere with reaching their full potential. Educators can assist children, whose shyness interferes with their social development and learning, by helping them relate comfortably with others. If no assistance is provided, shyness may worsen.

It should be noted that the process of socialization takes time. In order to feel safe, shy children often stand back and watch an activity. They begin the socialization process by observing and listening to the interactions of others. When they feel comfortable they move closer. Later, they may speak to a teacher or peer, and after time begin to relate to other children.

What can educators do to facilitate the development of a shy child's social skills?

1. Create a caring relationship with the child by attempting to understand his or her thoughts, fears and other emotions. Reassure the child that all children feel inhibited at times.

2. Since a shy student may become more self-conscious when confronted with a loud voice, speak softly and clearly. Be prepared to wait patiently for a reply to a question because the child may need time to respond.

3. Be accepting of a shy child's reticence to participate. Allow the child time to adjust to a situation. This will increase his or her sense of security and self-confidence.

4. Refrain from forcing a child to participate in group activities. Instead, provide nonthreatening ways for the child to interact with peers. Sometimes pairing a quiet child with an extroverted child can produce a positive learning experience for both students.

5. Notice and comment on a child's strengths including qualities such as kindness and athletic or academic ability. If you feel the attention will embarrass the child make the compliment in private.

6. Help the child see that everyone makes mistakes and that no one is perfect. Encourage him or her to keep trying by emphasizing that making an effort is what you consider important.

7. If you label a child as "shy," your description may become a permanent characteristic of the child. Instead, say something like, "Everyone is different. Melissa is a thinker. She watches and learns about what's happening before participating."

8. Teach specific social skills through various means including role playing, and/or using dolls or puppets. Have the children practice:

  • Holding their heads up, smiling and making eye contact when they are speaking. Say, "If you look at me while you are talking, I will be able to hear what you have to say."
  • Greeting a peer with enthusiasm. For example, have the children say things like, "Hi, my name is Tommy! What's your name?"
  • Beginning a conversation by saying, "What school did you go to last year?" or "What do you like to play?"
  • Listening, smiling, and enjoying social interactions. Have them smile and say things such as, "It's fun to play this game with you!"
  • Making simple conversation about school work, sports, or television shows. Comments the children may make are: "I like reading too." "What sport do you like?" or "What's your favorite TV show?"
  • Being good listeners and not interrupting.

9. Meet with the parent or guardian. Ask the parent to reinforce the social skills listed above. Encourage the parent to help the child do things for him or herself. Brainstorm ways to increase positive peer interactions for the child so that he or she can become more outgoing and independent. Stress that the parent should not label their child "shy" or call the shyness a "problem." Instead, have the parent call the child a "thinker." Help the parent recognize that every child is different and that it's okay for a child to take time before responding or participating.

If the above measures are unsuccessful and extreme shyness and/or anxiety persist, refer the child for additional professional help.

All these are sure to help you and your child. :D