In May of 2019 I went on a 10 day study abroad trip with the Adrian College Department of Education. The goal of this trip was to learn and experience as much as we could about the esteemed educational practices here, but also the overall differences between these countries and our own.
We started off by touring the beautiful city of Helsinki, the southern capitol of Finland. Known for its art deco landscape, it was clear everywhere we went that they put a large importance on environmental awareness, schooling, and overall wellness.
Every school here is held to the same standard, no matter the socioeconomic status of the surrounding areas. There is not a problem here of parents trying to send their kids to a "better" school. All schools are public, no private or charter schools. Early childhood care here is based on salary, meaning some families even get this for free, too. University is also free here, eliminating the stress of student loans.
All students get free hot lunch every single day. These lunches, in my opinion, are amazing. No kids need to worry about a $0 balance on their lunch account, and all food groups are provided for. Who can learn when they are hungry? Certainly not me. Maslow's theory, right??
All curriculum here in Finland is written by educators. Teachers are then trusted by their administrators to teach these standards, meaning regular observations and assessments of teachers are not practiced. When asked about this, a school principal responded, "I find it unprofessional to be looming over my teachers. I hired them because I believe in them. They are educated professionals." On top of this, the education field is one of the hardest to pursue in Finland with only a 10% acceptance rate at the University level. Each teacher has a Master's Degree. When speaking about this, one educator said, "It would be easier to enter into a field such as science or math."
The standards I mentioned before do not look like the ones we see here in America. Their standards focus on functional knowledge and empowerment. I wish I could have spent more time here, it is so amazing to be able to experience the worlds best education system. Not to mention seeing the impact of a placed importance on schools, parks, libraries, and free healthcare.
Our next stop was Stockholm, Sweden. Here, I was able to sit down with three actual high school students. They call their teachers by their first names here. The students spoke kindly and happily about their schooling experience. They also said that students under the age of 16 receive and allowance from the government. They do not use the same schedule we use here. Instead, their advisor helps them pick a schedule that looks a lot more like a College schedule. Large breaks in between classes, some days ending and beginning at different times. The one thing that they came up with that they would like to implement in their schools that America does is extracurriculars and sports. Our schools are set up in a way that they are the center of the community. Here, if you wish to play sports, you must do so outside of school.
Overall, this is one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. I cannot wait to continue learning and experiencing new ideas in the field of education!