It was July and all of my friends were enjoying summer, sunny days and vacations. I wasn’t. I was in a panic. In a month I was supposed to travel to a country I haven’t ever been to. To a country that speaks a language which not only I know nothing about but it even sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard in my life. To a country where it was going to be cold, really cold. And the worst of all I was supposed to live in Finland for half a year.
At one moment I was decided that I just can’t do it and I’m not going anywhere. I was decided that I will stay in my own country and stop thinking of such crazy ideas. Luckily I was able to overcome that fear.
The new university
Everything was new to me after arrival. New friends, new experiences and new university. The word new is important. It shows how much I realised the system I was grown in is old. As I was getting more used to their university model the more I was convinced that it just works better.
They are teaching in so-called blocks. It’s easy to explain – Monday till Friday there is only one subject dealt with, usually five to six hours a day. The theory required for the day’s assignment is presented in the morning and afterwards students are randomly put into teams, meaning that there are no team projects full of friends you know for years. An actual real-world case study is assigned, there is no need to come up with fictional companies and such. The companies in Finland are honestly interested in the students and are giving the tasks to students happily and by themselves. They are provided with the results and the best ones were teamed up with employees of the company to implement the results.
This approach is greatly supported by the attitude of the teachers, especially to the results presented – we were required to present our conclusions daily. An example would be brilliant at this point. For one project we were supposed to come up with a marketing strategy for a Finnish company competing on a market currently ruled by the world’s giants in the field. With the team we have decided that there is no way we could realise a viable plan with the assigned budget. We started thinking out of the box and we created a marketing plan highlighting the benefits of the company’s product which was offering it to sale to the competition. We presented our strategy and we were given an honorary mention for unorthodox thinking.
Sadly I can imagine that in a similar situation in Czech Republic we would be reproved for not fulfilling the assignment even though our plan had the biggest actual cash flow projected. Sadly in our rigid attitude towards any creativity when solving issues we are suppressing the young energetic minds to a mere repeating of information we are given from our teachers.
When compared to other countries Finland regularly comes out on top in math, science and reading. The critical thing about education in Finland is this: they don't obsess about those disciplines. They have a very broad approach to education which includes humanities, physical education and the arts. Also there is no standardized testing in Finland. Well there's a bit, but it's not what gets people up in the morning. It's not what keeps the students in the library until late evening. There is no such thing as a dropout rate. People study because they want to and should a situation happen when any student is struggling the teachers reach out to him quite quickly, help him and support him. Starting in elementary school there are no "gifted" programs, and the more able children are expected to help those who are slower to catch on.
Teachers are experts in their respective fields but they have many more qualities as well. They are great speakers and you can see how much they are enjoying being able to teach. Every interaction with a teacher is carried out with respect but also in a friendly manner and on a first name basis. They truly love their job and it’s not a job to them anymore, it’s passion. Being a teacher in Finland is a privilege many people look up to.