Finland: innovative answers to problems in education

The Finnish education system is renowned worldwide and, with its increasingly diverse population, is becoming an exceptional model for the education of immigrant children.

By Magnus Franklin from London, United Kingdom (Junior football) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Finnish education system is renowned worldwide and, with its increasingly diverse population, is becoming an exceptional model for the education of immigrant children.Over the last 15 years, Finland has diversified at a faster rate than any other European country, and by 2020 a fifth of people in Helsinki are expected to have been born elsewhere.During these years of change, Finland has consistently had amongst the highest standards in reading, maths and science when compared with most of the developed countries of the world.Every three years, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) carries out a numeracy, literacy and science test to about 470,000 15-year olds in 65 countries. In the most recent test, Finland came third, whilst the UK came twenty-fifth.The country’s teacher training courses are as difficult to get onto as their law or medical schools, and this rigorous approach is perhaps the reason for Finland’s high-calibre education.Finland’s success with immigrant children is also attributed to a “positive discrimination” policy since the 1990s.The government gives schools extra funds if they are situated in relatively poor areas, or have a disproportionately high number of children with special needs.On top of this, €1,000 is given to every school for each child who has lived in Finland for less than four years.Whilst the UK government dictates where the funding of schools is spent, in Finland the teachers are at liberty to decide where the money is needed.Helsinki’s education department is also running a pilot project that puts teenage immigrants in touch with social instructors, to ensure they fit in with Finnish society and remain in school.These instructors even help the youths to socialise, as well as advising them on careers and other services they may need.It seems that countries like the UK can learn much from Finland’s innovative approach to education, and also from their positive and constructive approach to immigrant pupils. The Summer 2014 issue of Re:locate magazine will feature more articles by Rebecca Marriage, including a guide to moving children with special educational needs. Click here to register for your free digital copy.  

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