Planning my thesis – a comparative investigation of education and social equity in New Zealand and Finland

davI haven’t been updating this page over the Spring semester as I have wanted to focus on my studies and life in Oulu. I will write more frequently on here as I adventure into my thesis, the plan of which is mapped out in this very long post with reference to the complex field of comparative and international education research. Please feel free to comment, question, and critique. These are early days and I have much to learn! I hope that you can learn something from this too 🙂

x Min

 

If we study foreign systems of education thoroughly and sympathetically – and sympathy and thoroughness are both necessary for the task – I believe that the result on our minds will be to make us prize, as we have never prized before, the good things which we have at home, and also to make us realise how many things there are in our [own education systems] which need prompt and searching change.”

(Sadler, 1990, cited in Bray, 2014a, p. 40).

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Notes: Comparisons of EdGlo countries’ education systems

The cultural knowledge and varied experiences brought by the international students is what makes this Education and Globalisation master’s programme so unique. While the programme itself is comprehensive and the lecturers are knowledgeable and thought-provoking, much of our learning comes from each other.

The 20 people in our class come from 19 very different countries:  Kurdistan with Finnish citizenship, the United States, United States-Taiwan, China (2x), South Korea, Australia, Australia-United Kingdom dual citizenship, Kenya, Germany, Italy, Indonesia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Ghana, New Zealand (I’m the first Kiwi!), Canada, Finland, Iran and India.

Our common language is English, but only six of us are mother-tongue speakers. We range in age from about 23 – 53, and the majority of us have a background in teaching.

Last week’s assignment for the Orientation to Finnish Culture and Education Systems course was to present for 15 minutes about our own countries’ education systems. Two people presented on other international experiences they had – S from Kurdistan-Finland talked about immigrant language support in Finland and R from UK-Aus presented about his time teaching in the West Bank, Palestine.

It was fascinating to learn about the way education is valued and approached differently across the world. In many ways it made me even more grateful for the high quality of education we provide in New Zealand. The comparisons with regard to access, autonomy and corruption etc. made me see even more that my gripes with our system are very “first-world problems”, but at the same time they have made me more firm in my determination to help maintain and improve what we have so that we don’t regress into further inequalities.

I have pasted my notes from my classmates’ presentation sessions below. Because they’re just my notes I took down as they spoke, I don’t have the references for stats etc. that they referred to. If there’s anything you’re especially interested in I can ask for them and pass them on to you though. Some of the detail is anecdotal as it comes from my classmates’ experiences as students and teachers in their home countries. I hope you find this as interesting as we all do!

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Finnish education: a system based on equity, trust & responsibility

Finland’s public school system is a hot topic among international education circles and the media for a number of reasons that stand it apart from other countries’ approaches to teaching and learning. Most notable perhaps are its inclusive nature and emphasis on social equity, its excellent results in the Programme for International Assessment (PISA) despite its rejection of standardised testing, and of course the high value that Finnish society places on equal access to quality and free education. Teaching is a respected profession In Finland, and teachers have a great deal of autonomy in the delivery of the curriculum and caring for their students’ welfare and learning.

Finnish ed system structure.png
The structure of the Finnish education system

This article by Finnish educationalist Pasi
Sahlberg
details Finland’s commitment to delivering high quality education and individualised learning to all students equally: “Because Finnish educators and policymakers believe schools can change the course of children’s lives, these schools must address the health, nutrition, well-being and happiness of all children in a systematic and equitable manner.” Aaah imagine if all education systems were built on this most basic and beautiful foundation.

This post will touch on some of the key features of the Finnish school system that I think are particularly positive and/or interesting. Sometimes I will make brief comparisons with New Zealand, but I will try to save the detail for future posts dedicated to those issues.

Finland sets the bar high, but its system is certainly not perfect and I don’t intend to portray it as such. The historical, political and social context in which this system works is unique. Up-lifting and transferring Finnish principles and practices to another country’s education system is of course much more complex that we might wish it to be, but we can all definitely learn a lot from these Finnish lessons…

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Tervetuloa! Haere mai! Welcome!

min-the-finn
Four weeks in, lookin’ like a Finn

Whāia e koe te iti kahurangi: ki te tūohu koe, me he maunga teitei

Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain

I have said farewell to the land and people I love in Aotearoa New Zealand to seek the most valuable treasure of education in Oulu, northern Finland. There are no mountains here, but there will be many challenges. I hope that I am able to work through them and share this journey with you.

I moved to Finland in August to study a two year master’s programme in Education and Globalisation at the University of Oulu in northern Ostrobothnia. I’m the first New Zealander to do the EdGlo course, and as far as I can tell I’m the only Kiwi at the University and maybe even in the city!  I’m excited to be a student again after being a teacher, especially to study education in a country that values it so highly and delivers it so successfully. It’s a dream to have the dedicated time to read, think, discuss, research and write about such a fascinating and important subject in this supportive and stimulating learning environment.

Continue reading “Tervetuloa! Haere mai! Welcome!”