Lessons in education from Finland

Finland’s education system has frequently been lauded as the best in world, coming out tops in global education system rankings every year. As such, many countries, Singapore included, have sought to adapt the Finnish system to their own.

Some argue that the key element to implement the Finnish model to Singapore is how both societies are collective in nature, that emphasises common good over the individual. Since the culture gap between Singapore and Finland is not as wide as most believe, it is hence possible to adapt Finland’s education system to our own. (“Possible to adapt Finnish education model to S’pore”; May 28)

However, just because both Singaporean and Finnish societies are collectivist does not necessarily mean that the Finnish education system is suitable for implementation in Singapore. There are definitely a lot more cultural complexities within each country that are unique to each society, which makes it perceivably difficult to simply “cut and paste” measures in Finland’s education system and place it in Singapore’s.

For instance, a large part of the Finnish education system is their policy on homework. As the OECD think tank says, “One of the most striking facts about Finnish schools is that their students have fewer hours of instruction than students in any other OECD country.” While Singaporean teachers can and have been trying to reduce the amount of homework given to students of late, simply adopting this policy will not achieve similar results for Singapore. We cannot deny that there are cultural differences between Finland and Singapore like the high degree of importance that parents place on homework for their children in Singapore which is not as evident in Finland. Thus, simply copying Finland’s education policies would not be the best way to adapt Finland’s system to Singapore’s.

I do not deny that gleaning lessons from Finland’s education system is important for Singapore, I do feel that there are more effective ways to adapt it to Singapore’s system. Instead of simply copying Finland’s education methods, perhaps a better way would be to changing our attitudes towards education as Finland does.

Instead of implementing the policy of reduced homework or national examinations in Singapore, we should consider the underlying reason behind it. To Finnish society, the point of assessments are to pinpoint areas where students lack understanding and give students individualised feedback, allowing teachers to give students early intervention to aid their learning. This attitude towards assessment can be adapted to Singapore. While it may be a long and arduous process, getting people to see that assessments should not become a way to pit students against each other but rather to help them identify their weaknesses and improve might make a greater impact. By changing how people view assessments, followed by implementing policy changes, changes in the education system would then be well received and effective.

Another way in which Singapore’s education system can really be changed would be to change society’s attitudes towards teaching as a vocation. In Finland, teaching is a highly valued profession. Despite a vigorous training programme that includes a five-year degree, there is stiff competition for the degree. Teachers in Finland are also highly respected by the rest of society for making a difference to young people’s lives. While I am sure that the teaching profession is respected among Singaporeans, it still has not reached the level of being as coveted as it is in Finland. There are many who do not view teaching as a prized vocation due to the low pay that teachers usually receive and perceived lack of qualifications that teachers have. I feel that this attitude disparity is something that Singapore should correct before starting to implement changes to the system itself. Without truly respecting and valuing teaching, it would be difficult to enforce lasting change in the education system.

Indeed, Finland’s education system should be something that Singapore should aspire to and strive to emulate. However, we should not be blindly copying all their measures and instead work to change our attitudes towards education. 

By Soh Wen Shuen

Eunoia Junior College, Student

References:

http://www.bbc.com/news/education-37716005

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/finn-fun  

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/jun/17/highly-trained-respected-and-free-why-finlands-teachers-are-different

Picture credit:

Morocco World News

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