As you know I live on a small island in the Caribbean called Curacao. We only have 150000 inhabitants. This week we had the privilege to have Jouni Kangasniemi, all the way from Finland, in Curacao. Finland has 5.5 million inhabitants. Jouni Kangasniemi is the head of the education development department of Finland. So we had the man himself here.
As you may know, or not, Finland is the country that has the most innovation in their schools. It is not just something that happened, but they have been working on it for the last 50 years. Yes, 50 years. Here is a sheet of the presentation of Jouni where he presented how the world is looking at them.
It was a political party that brought Jouni Kangasniemi to Curacao. But as I learned again education should not be linked to a political party but to the knowledge gained from research. The minister’s task is to keep the innovations going; to be sure that there are sufficient people to do the work and sufficient money to carry out the plans as they are designed for a period of 10 years. Every 10 years a new curriculum is made. I wish we can have a situation like that on Curacao too.
There are a lot of things that Finland does differently than the rest of the world. In this video, you will get a pretty good idea of some important aspects and differences. Take a look.
As I mentioned before one very important precondition is that the development of education continues no matter which party is governing. There should be a lot of research done in the field of Education. The government should realize this and make funds available for research. There is not much research done on the island about education. I hope that with my research I can contribute a little grain to all that will be happening in Curacao.
I am convinced that the education system as we have it now will have to change. The world is changing at an incredible pace. Our schools have not been adapted for quite some years. There are a lot of new things that we should learn.
But back to the preconditions. For children to be able to or even want to learn, they have to be happy, well fed, healthy and exercise. This applies to everybody, not only to children. In Finland, they understand this. Their health care costs a lot but they take good care of their citizens. For example, they had a very high mortality rate under children. They then decided to give all parents of newborns a maternity box with pampers, milk, clothes and even toys for the first months. Now that the mortality rate has dropped a lot.
In the video above they mentioned that in Finland the children start school at the age of 7. Now they start at 6. Schools and universities are free. You may ask how is this possible? Doesn’t it cost a lot? Well in Finland there are no poor people. Almost everybody is middle class and they pay around 40% in taxes! They gladly pay it, because of all the things they receive. Especially health care and education. With those two you can achieve everything.
When the children go to school they take with them an assessment that is made at home with their parents. Sometimes it would look like this.
Every part of the drawing is labeled with possible skills. Like ‘I know the numbers (1-10)’ or ‘I can cut with scissors’. When parents and child agree that they really can do what is written on the label, the child colors that part of the drawing. On the first day of school, the children bring in their drawing. With just one look, the teacher knows what are the areas for that child to work on.
Jouni Kangasniemi told us about all the stakeholders and how they are involved in a lot of things, but the teachers play an important role. The education department listens to the ministry, teachers union, children/young people, rectors, parents, working life and school inspectors. The teachers are the one doing all the work. In Finland, they are trusted and are highly respected. But how is that possible if everywhere else in the world teachers are not respected anymore?
To become a teacher in Finland is not easy. Only 10% of all applicants get accepted. They have to study hard and get their masters degree. Not everyone that is accepted will get to the finish line. In Finland, the teachers are some of the smartest people. The study is called Learning Science, so they are academically schooled with a lot of knowledge about everything that there is to know about how children learn. With being smart a lot of responsibility is put on their shoulders.
The teachers have a list of all the things the children should be able to do at the end of the year. The teachers are allowed to choose their own method as long as they reach their goal. Sometimes the teachers ask the children to come in earlier to have a one-on-one moment with a skill or subject they not quite master yet. Sometimes it is after school they stay longer.
Children never fail a class at the end of the year, because all the work is done during the year. The teachers have psychologists, social workers and doctors they can consult. It is a team effort to help every child thrive and as Jouni says. In Finland, no child is left behind!
The teachers have a lot of communication with the parents through an electronic platform.
Constantly Finland is researching and planning things ahead. Right now they see that future jobs will have to do with knowledge jobs and labor jobs. Knowledge jobs are jobs where the main capital of the workers is knowledge. Academics, programmers, physicians, pharmacists, architects, engineers, scientists, design thinkers, accountants, and lawyers are some examples of such professions. Their line of work requires them to “think for a living“. But we still need people to repair our cars and plumbing.
At school, the children learn about life skills, financial education, entrepreneurs skills, and information communication technology.
Every year they have a project week where they bring a real-life problem into the school.
Thank you, Jouni
I have been reading and hearing about the system in Finland, but it is good when you can hear about it in person from Jouni Kangasniemi, a very experienced person with the Finland system. I think Curacao is ready to change things. I hope that everybody that was present at the presentations took something they can change in their environment as a start.
Thanks, Jouni for being in Curacao.
Here are some pictures from the presentations.