Teaching in Finland

I am currently in Finland on my second year teaching placement for my BEd degree. I have been here teaching in Rovaniemi, Lapland for the past 4 weeks. The experience has been so incredible and refreshing and I will be really sad when I have to leave in two weeks.

I was not sure what to expect before I arrived but it has definitely exceeded all expectations. I think the main reason for this is that the way education is taught, run and delivered here is so much different to the UK. The differences are endless and I will name some of the main ones I have been fascinated by.

The school day 
The school day in Finnish schools is very different to the UK, this may not be the same in every school in Finland but that is one of the great things in Finland, the school day and the timetables are flexible and the school have a lot of freedom to how they are run. The class I am with rarely finish at the same time, for example on Monday the children start at 8 and finish at 1 yet on a Tuesday half of the class will come at 8 and then are joined by the other half at 10 for 2 hours before leaving at 12 and the other pupils staying an extra 2 hours. This makes teaching more digestible for both child and teacher, it is refreshing to plan for a lesson and actually get to teach it more than once. Despite the early finishes and most teachers leaving by three we have found ourselves at school until 6 being the last to lock up, maybe that is a English routine we just cannot get out of

Each lesson is 45 minutes followed by 15 minute break after every lesson with a 30 minute lunch break in the middle. For younger children such as my class (grade 2 - year 4) lunch can be as early as 10:30. Every child in Finland is given a free hot meal, there are no packed lunches, every child eats the same meal. Teachers also always sit and eat the same meal with the children, I believe this is such a great thing, children are well behaved and manners are kept. It also gives the teacher a chance to continue classroom relationships with the children but on a less formal basis. This time is also great for me to interact with the children in my class, with their English vocabulary being so little I set myself the target every day to learn what is for lunch in Finnish and I teach them in English. I have found that the more I show to make an effort to speak Finnish they will be more willing to have a go at English, it is a great exchange deal and has worked really well so far.

To begin with I struggled with the idea that a lot of the core subjects in Finland are taught using textbooks, each child is given a workbook for subjects such as Maths, Finnish and Science in which they complete throughout the year. After hearing so much about creative teaching in Finland and my original thoughts that textbooks are everything primary education shouldn't be about I thought it was odd to find a lot of textbook based work in their lessons, however I have come to realise that they actually work in a very clever way. They are a great from of assessment and the input to topics and work is the most important part which is taught in creative forms and then the books re used to secure the learning, identifying any misconceptions and finalising the knowledge the children have acquired. 

To me the no uniform has not been a massive difference as my own primary school and ther schools I have aught in did not ave a uniform sever t man of the ther trainee teachers here with me this was a major change. I am still unsure where I stand on the uniform debate, as much as I loved wearing my own clothes to school as a child I also could not wait to get t secondary school so I could uniform. They do not have this in Finland as they can always wear what they want, it is the norm and it important that the rule stands throw out their education so they know no different. I think if children are used to it and it is the normal then you do not have these suppsed problems that no uniform brings in the UK such as bullying etc. Every child in Finland is treated the same, there are not private schools as such and every child just gets to their local primary school, again I really think that it is refreshing, there is very little divide. I was surprised to see how fascinated the children in my class were when I showed them pictures of schoos and the uniforms in the UK. They were fixated and wanted to see more images, particularly of black school shoes (Finland schoos have a no shoe policy and pupils and teachers tend to wear slippers). 
Age of children 
In Finland children don't start school until they are 7. I am currently working with Grade 2 which are aged 8 and 9. It is very strange as they seem so much younger than they actually are. I have been trying to decide whether this is because they start school much older than in the UK or if children are just growing up too quickly in the UK. It really does beg the question of how long do children in the UK actually get the chance to be children, I find it very strange every day teaching a class of 18 year 4s yet I feel I have reception aged children staring back at me. Their intellect matches with the age but the social skills are completely different. The children here are very carefree which I feel some ages are beginning to lose in the UK. 

I have had an incredible experience so far and cannot wait to see what my last two weeks involve, every day is different in a Finnish school with new opportunities cropping up all of the time. This week I take an 11 hour coach journey to Espoo with one of the grade 6 classes to join them as they compete in Finland's Junior RoboCup competition. This is such a great experience for me as I am yet to have the proper opportunity to work with Lego mindstorms and such robotic equipment. 

You can follow live updates from my trip and the competition on my twitter feed - @MegDouglasTeach


  1. Wow this has been a fascinating read and has inspired me to go to Finland hopefully one day to teach, as I can see just from reading this that your experience already has been life changing!



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