31 July 2015
Finland’s education system is regarded as the best in the world. I’m a little bit jealous that schools in Finland have top spot however it does provide us with a goal and it’s one that we aspire to. At MIC we want to be the best. So lately I’ve been reading and researching to find out what some of the keys are to Finland’s success. I was pleased to find that MIC has many of the same qualities that the Finnish education system embraces.
Here is a list of the things we have in common:
- In senior secondary school Finnish students can choose a school based on its specialities. It’s like a mixture of high school and college. At MIC students choose to study here based of the music industry context (speciality) and our mode of operation is a mixture of high school and college.
- The Finnish system offers a vocational education program in senior secondary. At MIC not only is our curriculum contextualised to a music industry career path but we also offer school based traineeships, internships and several industry aligned extra-curricula activities with real
- Students in Finland spend less time at school each day, giving them more time to rest. In Helsinki they are creating a law stating that schools cannot begin before 9am because research has consistently found that adolescents need quality sleep in the morning. The two spares per week (for students on a five subject program) and Free Range Fridays mean MIC students spend less time at school per week than their peers and our 10am start was based on the same research that the Helsinki law will be based on.
- Finnish teachers teach 4 or less lessons per day. At MIC teachers have a maximum of 3 lessons per day. This allows both sets of teachers more time to plan and think about each lesson. It allows time to create great, thought provoking lessons.
- Students in Finland have fewer teachers than their peers in other countries. This leads to greater consistency and care. This also allows for more individualised attention. At MIC with our two teacher per class system, students will see the same teachers more often in their classes. This also leads to greater consistency, care and individualisation. An added benefit is that teachers are better able to make linkages across subjects areas, for example in Business we can talk about our film clips that we are developing in FTV in a marketing context. This helps students to understand the practical links between aspects of their course of study.
- Schools in Finland have a common teacher/staff room where teachers can come together at breaks and collaborate and support their peers. Traditionally in Australian secondary schools these staff rooms are divided along faculty lines. At MIC we have one common staff room that is similar to the Finnish model where there are tables, chairs, coffee machine, fridge and a couch.
- There is a lesser emphasis on testing in Finland and a greater emphasis on learning. At MIC we assign the minimum number of assessments that are required by the QCAA. By assigning the minimum we can reduce the stress load on students and at the same time give teachers more time to focus on learning rather than teaching to the test or assessment instrument. This also allows us to spend time on developing non-assessable skills and traits (life-skills, self-esteem, confidence, etc) in our students. These qualities can often be more important post-graduation than an OP score or results on a report card.
- There is almost no homework assigned in the Finnish system. With less homework there is more time for students to participate in areas where they have a genuine passion. Finnish students are also given more time in class to complete set tasks and assignments. At MIC we embrace a similar philosophy. Minimal homework is assigned because most tasks can be finished in class time. We also believe that students should be able to choose what activities they engage with once they leave for the day. Some will spend hours practicing their instrument, others will be involved in sports, some may even decide to help more with family chores while others have more time for part-time work.
- One of the key tenants of the Finnish model is TRUST. There is less structure, fewer rules and students are trusted to a higher degree than in other countries. Teachers in Finland are also trusted more by society and their individual school communities. At MIC, TRUST is the first of our four pillars. We are a high trust environment and we see the benefits on a daily basis. Our teachers are also trusted to develop their own subject programs, lessons and extra-curricula activities. They are also trusted to select their own professional development program. Based on our most recent parent survey I am happy to say that our parent body trusts our teachers as well.
That’s nine out of eleven aspects of the Finnish model that MIC has in common. That doesn’t mean that we are the same as schools in Finland, rather it means that we embrace a similar philosophy across those nine factors. MIC is unique in many ways however it is pleasing when you can compare yourself with the best in the world and discover that you are doing a lot of things right. We are also aware that there is still a lot of work in front of us before we can claim to be the best in the world. We may never reach that goal as what is happening in other schools is beyond our control but we’re happy to be on that journey and we’ll always be striving for our personal best.