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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Finland Invents a Broken Wheel 

FINLAND WILL BECOME THE FIRST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD TO GET RID OF ALL SCHOOL SUBJECTS

Actually, this teaching method is gazillion years old. It was ridiculed by Chekhov and others back in the 19th century. The method was popular with the newly emerging middle classes whose members wanted to give their kids an imitation of aristocratic education. They couldn’t afford it, though, and had to settle for this method of teaching. The results were ridiculous.

The method was revived in the 1920s and the 1930s when developed countries tried to make secondary ed truly comprehensive and thought this was a good way to help the children of illiterate peasants and factory workers to catch up with middle-class peers. It failed just as badly as in the 19th century. 

Today, wannabeism happens on the planetary scale, and this old teaching method is being disinterred yet again.

My experience with the Finnish students and colleagues, by the way, is that only the Japanese are more ignorant in terms of any but the most ultra-specialized, technical knowledge. 

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16 thoughts on “Finland Invents a Broken Wheel 

  1. Another example of why it’s a good idea to read Clarissa’s Blog. You get a completely different take than what you get from the media. One annual event in the news cycle is reporting of the “PISA” test results, apparently a measure of national education effectiveness, in which Finland and South Korea generally take turns in first and second place. Apparently whatever PISA tests for isn’t the kind of stuff Clarissa reads as intellect.

    From the linked article:

    There is even a proposed course called “working in a cafe” which will provide students with skills on the English language, economics and communication.

    But the name of the website is “enlightened consciousness” so my BS meter is at least a little set off.

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    • “There is even a proposed course called “working in a cafe” which will provide students with skills on the English language, economics and communication.”

      • I don’t even. Ay yay yay. This is gimmickness taken to the extreme.

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    • “You get a completely different take than what you get from the media.”

      • That’s the purpose of my very existence. 🙂

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    • el on said:

      \ the “PISA” test results, apparently a measure of national education effectiveness, in which Finland and South Korea generally take turns in first and second place

      Do those countries really lead a way in research and have higher-quality workforce than other first world nations? Do their citizens enjoy higher standard of living?

      \ “There is even a proposed course called “working in a cafe”

      The name would turn me off since my first thought was “does the name refer to mcdonalds workers, for instance?”

      I wanted to get higher education in order not to work in a cafe.

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  2. el on said:

    I wouldn’t want to be in such a school as a student.

    For me, the ideal situation is when history lessons, for instance, give a bird’s eye view of historical processes which one remembers even after forgetting most dates and details. (That’s why I loved Bobbitt’s book so much.) The same should hold true for other school subjects.

    Yes, Google will find you a date or a math formula in less than a second, but it won’t give you the understanding of a given discipline in general, how this piece of information fits into the larger picture, whether we’re talking about physics or literature.

    I am afraid doing projects will be too much like getting unconnected pieces of a puzzle. The article talks about studing events “such as the Second World War, from the perspectives of maths, geography and history.” I do not know how you can connect complex numbers and integrals from high school advanced math course to WW2 (*). At least, how to do it naturally. Moreover, even if it’s possible, why do it?

    I think first you need to learn disciplines, and only then do synthesis. What about interdisciplinary research in academia, don’t academics usually need to know both fields well before attempting it?

    (*) There are three levels of math in Israeli schools – 3, 4 and 5 points – to suit students with different abilities. You cannot demand 5-point level knowledge from everybody wanting to study WW2.

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  3. el on said:

    \ Today, wannabeism happens on the planetary scale, and this old teaching method is being disinterred yet again.

    I arrived to an additional theory while thinking why I wouldn’t want to study in such a school. I am tired and have difficulty to phrase it, but may be my theory can be developed and improved, hopefully (a bit stream of consciousness style follows):

    The new school system is trying to mimic the future lives of Finnish students. Jumping from studying one event to another without truly grasping the large picture of the disciplines mentally prepares students for passing from one temporary job project to another without any higher, long-term life goals, like planning their lives for decades ahead.

    Discrete blocs of unconnected information at school ~ discrete, unconnected life stages = fluidity (temporary jobs, different places of living, etc.)
    VS
    Studying (official) historical narratives and trying to classify one’s knowledge according to different disciplines ~ desire for bringing order into and creating a narrative of one’s own private life

    If previously nation states needed to beat into everybody a “correct” interpretation of national history, now some states (not Israel yet) feel no need for any narrative. A few historical events are merely a material to be used for the real goal – practicing doing projects. The real end of history is not Fukuyama’s, but rather the end of citizens being educated to see history as something one can create grand narratives about.

    \ The Finnish education system also encourages collective work, meaning that students will be working together in small discussion groups

    Is group work more prominent than ever in today’s workplace?

    I thought the most mobile / successful people were professionals with a deep knowledge of their sub-field who worked alone.

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    • This is a brilliant, brilliant comment, el. This is education for the future dispensable, Kleenex-type workforce. I really, truly wish my fellow educators thought about these kinds of innovations before adopting them.

      Love your comment. The part about history is so good that I’m envious I didn’t think of it.

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    • “The new school system is trying to mimic the future lives of Finnish students”

      It also more or less guarantees that students will be so ignorant at the end of high school that university studies will have to be exapanded to help close the gap…. (which keeps them off the unemployment rolls longer – a major motivation for dragging out education longer in many countries).

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      • Hey, what a joy for university professors to teach students who are steeped in the culture of making projects at a cafe.

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        • el on said:

          \ Hey, what a joy for university professors to teach students who are steeped in the culture of making projects at a cafe.

          After reading the article, I had the image of Prof ‘Bulochkina’ announcing to the classroom:

          “In this course, after the first three general introductory lectures about Spain, we’ll study study the event, The Spanish Civil War, from the perspectives of literature, maths, geography and history.”

          Also, if you want to teach a future teacher of projects, you cannot lecture in the old fashioned way without explaining how “a concept in math it directly relates to something I am teaching in geography or writing or reading or social justice.” [from comments, and I have no idea how this teacher of 25 years does it]

          \ university studies will have to be exapanded to help close the gap…. (which keeps them off the unemployment rolls longer …

          I do not think this situation will continue for long. Even some commenters mention this:

          “its easy give education to todlers just in the bigning give them latest tabs they start playing then after they learn how to oprate educate them”
          AND
          “A more positive step would be to revisit the question of the fundamental purpose of education vs the direction that society is taking ie: what is the point of an education system that primarily aims to equip students with the capabilities necessary to pursue meaningful employment & economic survival in a world where employment opportunities are disappearing before their eyes?”

          I predict a few richer students will succeed after their parents pay for normal education, while 90% will be given the latest tabs for entertainment.

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          • ““a concept in math it directly relates to something I am teaching in geography or writing or reading or social justice.””

            • This is pathetic on every level.

            “[from comments, and I have no idea how this teacher of 25 years does it]”

            • Just releases a bunch of silly platitudes that are neither here nor there.

            I predict a series of conferences and workshops at my school promoting this form of education. Of course, I don’t predict anything like that at schools for rich kids.

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  4. DWeird on said:

    The Finnish people I know and call friends (who are a fairly tight-knit group, so not necessarily representative) I would not fault with a lack of general education – as in, you can argue with them for hours and all of it will be time well spent.

    I do find them rather odd in a few ways, especially how much they know and care about ‘practical’ matters (mending torn clothing, starting a fire properly, what is Hollywood even thinking, pshaw!, making their own furniture, building a lodge in the woods).

    They’re also the only people I know (possibly aside from el here) who are very happy for having been conscripted – one of my friends, now running an online business, is also a trained field medic. They will complain about the technical details of how the military training is or should be run, but it underlies an belief that conscription itself is useful and necessary.

    They feel very late 19th century, in a sense – there are Rights and there are Duties.

    It also seems like this thing has been running as an experiment alongside regular Helsinki classes for a year now, though I can’t easily find anything in English on how that went. And as far as I can tell, this isn’t currently a nationwide initiative – though given that it’s been tried out in Helsinki, it’s certainly being prepared as such.

    There’s also a TED talk (I know, I know) from the lady in charge – http://www.tedxhamburg.de/marjo-kylloenen-redesigning-education-for-the-future

    Trying to soldier through the cringe English to see what all of this about.

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    • el on said:

      Thank you for the info, DWeird.

      Are you British, Finnish or something else?

      \ They feel very late 19th century, in a sense – there are Rights and there are Duties.

      That’s nation-state rhetoric. Israel is a new country involved in an unending conflict, so conscription is necessary so far. I am surprised peaceful and old Finland manages to produce such consciousness in its citizens despite being in EU. Do not know anything about the country, but it would be interesting to know the historical reasons. I suppose, one of them is the population being homogeneous, without large minorities.

      [wiki] “As of 2014, there were 322,700 people with a foreign background living in Finland (5.9% of the population), most of whom are from Russia, Estonia, Somalia, Iraq and Yugoslavia.”

      VS

      [wiki] There are no official statistics on ethnicity, but according to Statistics Sweden, around 1,921,000 (20.1%) inhabitants of Sweden were of a foreign background in 2012, defined as being born abroad or born in Sweden to two parents born abroad.

      VS in Germany:

      [wiki] In 2010, 29% of families with children under 18 had at least one parent with immigrant roots.

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      • The US was always extremely successful – more than anybody else in the world – in creating deep patriotic attachment in people who were all from somewhere else and very attached to their original cultures. It isn’t about the numbers. It’s about the will to create such an attachment.

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      • lurker on said:

        ‘I am surprised peaceful and old Finland manages to produce such consciousness in its citizens despite being in EU.’
        Three reasons: Russia, Russia and Russia.

        Like

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