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Immigrants Also Benefit From Finnish Education Styles

Immigrants Also Benefit From Finnish Education Styles

Much has been made of the Finnish style of education in the past year or two. Some have speculated that this is due to the homogenous culture that Finland has, due to being in such an isolated and cold place. Whatever the reason, it has been praised worldwide, and now more evidence is suggesting that the Finns are getting it right.

Finland’s education system has been admired internationally for the fact that its 15-year-olds have had among the highest standards in reading, math and science in comparison with most developed countries. This has been true for the past ten years, and is astonishing for such a small country.

Educators and policy pundits have attributed this to the value placed on teaching.  It is just as hard to claim a spot in teacher training as it is in the law schools.

However, what we are also seeing is the value placed on getting children who are not born in Finland to the same standards that their native born-peers are. Typically, 25 hours a week, a child is placed in a class of four with a teacher and teaching assistant. It takes anywhere between six months and a year before students are evaluated to have mastered Finnish.  At this point, they are deemed ready to go back to their own class grade and peer group.  They have already been immersed with other children their own age and class in sports and art classes, so they will not be shoved into a new situation completely.

Foreign-born citizens make up only 5% of Finland’s population, which is low against the 11.5% across the UK.  However, gains are being made in Finland’s immigrant population, making it one of the fastest-growing European countries.  The country has seen a 300% increase in immigration since 2000. The projection for Helsinki is that by 2020, one fifth of the population will be foreign-born, with the majority having moved from a Slavic country, e.g. Russia, Estonia, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia.

In America, the first obstacle to this kind of education that will get thrown up in many states is that of money.  According to the Department of Education in Helsinki, only 2% of students require state-funded tuition in a language that is not Finnish.

Most views of Finnish education rely on the fact that it is a small country and the immigration has not reached the proportions reached by most other countries.

I can’t help but think that there is something to the value Finland places on teachers and education. Perhaps it is having a culture that values the minds of its members even at a very young age that gives them the upper hand.

 

Related Stories:

What American Schools Just Don’t Understand (Or, Why My Family Might be Moving to Finland)

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23 comments

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6:20AM PST on Mar 1, 2012

Allan Y: Please tell you wouldn't be the first in line to complain about the tax increase for the cost of educating all immigrants, both children and adults, in a free, comprehensive, full-time, five month to year-long intensive English program that *paid* the students so enrolled?

Israel offers five months of full-time Ulpan, or Hebrew instruction, to the Diaspora Jews that make Aliyah (return to Israel.) It also gives these new citizens a substantial monthly stipend, an initial grant, a year of free healthcare, (and extremely cheap healthcare for life) tax breaks, a pension, and all kinds of other perks to make the transition to Israeli citizenship smoother and more joyous.

What do *we* give our new immigrants? Attitudes like yours, an unending amount of disdain, and the opportunity to work like a dog (many in the unregulated, underground economy) for the privilege of remaining in poverty. "Welcome to the US" indeed.

I don't know much about Finland beyond what I've read here, but I do know that comparing the effects of US immigration with that of immigration to Israel, without also mentioning the incredibly different incentive/disincentives of the immigration itself, is highly deceptive.

7:11PM PST on Dec 5, 2011

"However, what we are also seeing is the value placed on getting children who are not born in Finland to the same standards that their native born-peers are. Typically, 25 hours a week, a child is placed in a class of four with a teacher and teaching assistant. It takes anywhere between six months and a year before students are evaluated to have mastered Finnish. At this point, they are deemed ready to go back to their own class grade and peer group. They have already been immersed with other children their own age and class in sports and art classes, so they will not be shoved into a new situation completely."

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/immigrants-also-benefit-from-finnish-education-styles.html#ixzz1fij54iVX

5:10PM PST on Dec 5, 2011

As Smithsonian magazine quoted Finnish schools, "Whatever it takes"

9:40AM PST on Dec 5, 2011

We could learn from them - to have it be just as difficult to get a teaching credential as it is to get a law degree is brilliant.

However, I also read to day about how Finnish schools do not have the same sense of honoring other religions and cultures in their schools - I read of an American woman checking out the Finnish school system and saying there was no sharing of the different religious celebrations that happen around this solstice time, and that they were all forced to study only Christmas, and learn only Christmas carols.

6:49AM PST on Dec 5, 2011

It seems like a good system, but will it last?

10:44AM PST on Dec 4, 2011

that's good, but no system is perfect

6:01AM PST on Dec 4, 2011

John M. I believe it's PRIORITIES that say it...

6:11PM PST on Dec 3, 2011

Yes, it's important to encourage children to master the language of school. In the USA, we need to keep insisting that helping 9 year olds master reading, writing, and figuring is vital to our health and happiness.

2:32PM PST on Dec 3, 2011

Finland, like Israel has established one very important factor in educating immigrants - they must learn the language of their new country.
In America, natives have to "press 1 for English" on the phone.In the North West, signs are bi-lingual.
In Israel, an immigrant is given a job, and is forced to attend Hebrew classes. Imagine this in America? A hundred years ago, immigrants struggled to speak English.Now, we make excuses.

12:32PM PST on Dec 3, 2011

Great article ..thanks!

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