Less bureaucracy and more autonomy help Finnish schools excel, says senior education official

Less bureaucracy, more autonomy in schools and excellent teaching staff are among the reasons why the Finnish education system acquired a reputation for being among the best in the world, Jaana PalojA�rvi, Director of International Relations at the Finnish Ministry of Education explains. Rational decisions and an inclination to think out of the box helped the country shape a system that educates pupils, able to rank among the best in Europe and the world, the senior education official says.

Together with Estonia, Finland is among EU countries that top the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), competing with Asian tigers such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.

PalojA�rvi is in Cyprus to address an event on Thursday, titled Education for the future. Good practices from Finland and how they can be adopted in Cyprus. In an interview with CNA and other Cypriot media, the senior Finnish official outlines the priorities of her country’s education system, underlining the importance of pursuing a national strategy that addresses existing challenges.

The Finnish population is ageing rapidly and the demographic pyramid is very concerning, PalojA�rvi says, stressing the need for professions, relevant to the care of the elderly. Therefore, her Ministry adapted to labour market needs focusing on health and social sector graduates.

A lot depends on the overall strategy of the country. When we are trying to plan for our education, this foresight is more important and more challenging than ever she goes on.

She adds that the Finnish strategy is linked to the challenges her country is facing and when asked about Cyprus, she says that the government should respond to this question by outlining its vision for the future.

Stressing the distinct characteristics of each country, PalojA�rvi notes that it is not possible to copy the education system from one case to another. She says however that there are some good practices that can be adapted in other countries as well. One of the strengths of the Finnish education system is that we are having excellent teachers she goes on, noting that the teaching profession is considered to be a very attractive choice for young people. She says moreover that teachers’ capacity training is among the best in the world.

According to the senior education official, Finland also has a tradition of thinking out of the box. We like to do things a bit differently she says adding that Finnish people are characterized by a mixture of rationality, extreme pragmatism and innovation. And this reflects to our education system as well she adds.

To explain why Finland is doing quite well according to PISA and World Economic Forum (WEF) rankings, the Ministry official provides a few examples of thinking out of the box while taking rational decisions.

We are very good in asking ourselves ‘why do things in a certain way’. In the early ’90 we asked ourselves why we have school inspectors. We concluded that if you have well educated teachers with a good capacity, you really don’t need inspectors. And we gave up having inspectors, she says.

Also, she notes that since teachers are so well-educated, they are free to choose the material they want to use in their class, while there is no pre-inspected material.

Our ultimate goal is to raise young people able to respond to future challenges, while the outcome we look for is young people with good analytical skills, able to master the skills of the future, she adds.

Moreover, there are no national tests in Finland, for as PalojA�rvi put it we don’t believe that they bring anything. Instead, performance is monitored through random tests.

One reason why Finland is doing so well in terms of efficiency is the lack of bureaucracy, she goes on. The education system in Finland is very decentralized and schools enjoy a great degree of autonomy, PalojA�rvi explains.

Asked about Finnish curricula, the Finnish Education Ministry official says that they reflect a series of values, such as sustainable development, tolerance, international understanding, critical thinking and analytical skills.

We also focus on stimulating curiosity and creativity and lay emphasis in arts and music, things that allow pupils to express themselves, she adds.

Moreover, PalojA�rvi underlines that true competitiveness comes from innovation. As a small country with a population of 5.5 mln and hardly any resources, we need human brains if we want to be at the top of WEF competitive rankings she says, noting that without innovation and creativity, I don’t know how we could that.

The education system in Finland is funded in part by the government and in part by municipalities. According to PalojA�rvi, between 12% and 13% of the state budget goes to education, equivalent to about 6% of GDP (not including research).

We did pretty well during the migrant crisis

Finland was among EU countries that bore the brunt after the 2015 refugee and migrant crisis, but as PalojA�rvi says, the country’s education system managed to cope and address challenges.

In hindsight we would make some things differently, but we did pretty well, the senior official says, noting that the biggest challenge concerned unaccompanied minors.

Finland has already in place policies promoting inclusion and support for the weaker members of society, she explains, adding that due to well-established structures it was easier to provide for another vulnerable group.

PalojA�rvi also says that the flexibility of the education system made it easier for refugee and migrant children to slip in and attend class side by side with other children in Finland, noting that it works well. Orientation classes were provided for these children to analyze their learning capabilities while others were provided with special assistance, when necessary.

Since our education system is so flexible, we didn’t have to create a parallel system for migrant and refugee children, just some additions and adjustments to the existing one, she concluded.

Source: Cyprus News Agency

Less bureaucracy and more autonomy help Finnish schools excel, says senior education official

Less bureaucracy, more autonomy in schools and excellent teaching staff are among the reasons why the Finnish education system acquired a reputation for being among the best in the world, Jaana PalojA�rvi, Director of International Relations at the Finnish Ministry of Education explains. Rational decisions and an inclination to think out of the box helped the country shape a system that educates pupils, able to rank among the best in Europe and the world, the senior education official says.

Together with Estonia, Finland is among EU countries that top the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), competing with Asian tigers such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.

PalojA�rvi is in Cyprus to address an event on Thursday, titled Education for the future. Good practices from Finland and how they can be adopted in Cyprus. In an interview with CNA and other Cypriot media, the senior Finnish official outlines the priorities of her country’s education system, underlining the importance of pursuing a national strategy that addresses existing challenges.

The Finnish population is ageing rapidly and the demographic pyramid is very concerning, PalojA�rvi says, stressing the need for professions, relevant to the care of the elderly. Therefore, her Ministry adapted to labour market needs focusing on health and social sector graduates.

A lot depends on the overall strategy of the country. When we are trying to plan for our education, this foresight is more important and more challenging than ever she goes on.

She adds that the Finnish strategy is linked to the challenges her country is facing and when asked about Cyprus, she says that the government should respond to this question by outlining its vision for the future.

Stressing the distinct characteristics of each country, PalojA�rvi notes that it is not possible to copy the education system from one case to another. She says however that there are some good practices that can be adapted in other countries as well. One of the strengths of the Finnish education system is that we are having excellent teachers she goes on, noting that the teaching profession is considered to be a very attractive choice for young people. She says moreover that teachers’ capacity training is among the best in the world.

According to the senior education official, Finland also has a tradition of thinking out of the box. We like to do things a bit differently she says adding that Finnish people are characterized by a mixture of rationality, extreme pragmatism and innovation. And this reflects to our education system as well she adds.

To explain why Finland is doing quite well according to PISA and World Economic Forum (WEF) rankings, the Ministry official provides a few examples of thinking out of the box while taking rational decisions.

We are very good in asking ourselves ‘why do things in a certain way’. In the early ’90 we asked ourselves why we have school inspectors. We concluded that if you have well educated teachers with a good capacity, you really don’t need inspectors. And we gave up having inspectors, she says.

Also, she notes that since teachers are so well-educated, they are free to choose the material they want to use in their class, while there is no pre-inspected material.

Our ultimate goal is to raise young people able to respond to future challenges, while the outcome we look for is young people with good analytical skills, able to master the skills of the future, she adds.

Moreover, there are no national tests in Finland, for as PalojA�rvi put it we don’t believe that they bring anything. Instead, performance is monitored through random tests.

One reason why Finland is doing so well in terms of efficiency is the lack of bureaucracy, she goes on. The education system in Finland is very decentralized and schools enjoy a great degree of autonomy, PalojA�rvi explains.

Asked about Finnish curricula, the Finnish Education Ministry official says that they reflect a series of values, such as sustainable development, tolerance, international understanding, critical thinking and analytical skills.

We also focus on stimulating curiosity and creativity and lay emphasis in arts and music, things that allow pupils to express themselves, she adds.

Moreover, PalojA�rvi underlines that true competitiveness comes from innovation. As a small country with a population of 5.5 mln and hardly any resources, we need human brains if we want to be at the top of WEF competitive rankings she says, noting that without innovation and creativity, I don’t know how we could that.

The education system in Finland is funded in part by the government and in part by municipalities. According to PalojA�rvi, between 12% and 13% of the state budget goes to education, equivalent to about 6% of GDP (not including research).

We did pretty well during the migrant crisis

Finland was among EU countries that bore the brunt after the 2015 refugee and migrant crisis, but as PalojA�rvi says, the country’s education system managed to cope and address challenges.

In hindsight we would make some things differently, but we did pretty well, the senior official says, noting that the biggest challenge concerned unaccompanied minors.

Finland has already in place policies promoting inclusion and support for the weaker members of society, she explains, adding that due to well-established structures it was easier to provide for another vulnerable group.

PalojA�rvi also says that the flexibility of the education system made it easier for refugee and migrant children to slip in and attend class side by side with other children in Finland, noting that it works well. Orientation classes were provided for these children to analyze their learning capabilities while others were provided with special assistance, when necessary.

Since our education system is so flexible, we didn’t have to create a parallel system for migrant and refugee children, just some additions and adjustments to the existing one, she concluded.

Source: Cyprus News Agency