Wednesday, October 17, 2007
OU professor discusses education system in FinlandBy Sarah Malczynski, student writer
Eileen Johnson, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, presented the annual President’s Colloquium on Tuesday, Oct. 16, in the Oakland Center Banquet Rooms. Her lecture, titled “To Live and Teach in Finland,” focused on the education system in Finland and the reasons it is so often compared to the United States’ education system.
|Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership Eileen Johnson delivered the 2007 President's Colloquium.|
Johnson’s presentation initially provided a broad overview of Finnish history, culture, aesthetics, religion, politics, economy and everyday life. One philosophy Johnson stressed was that Finnish citizens “work to live, not live to work.”
“Understanding the Finnish way of life helps us to understand their philosophy on everything, especially education,” Johnson said.
Johnson and her two sons moved to Finland so that she could conduct her research, and her sons were enrolled in Finnish public schools, giving her a comprehensive view of the inner workings of the education system.
As a result of severe economic recession in the early 1990s, the Finnish government pulled back spending in all areas except education, and research and development. Johnson noted that this demonstrates the Finnish government’s strong emphasis on education for its citizens.
According to the Finnish Constitution, it is a fundamental right for all citizens to receive a basic education and a qualified higher education. Finnish people are encouraged to work toward self development regardless of financial standing, Johnson explained.
The objective of a basic education in Finland is to support a student’s growth toward humanity and an ethically responsible membership in society, and to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary in life.
Finnish citizens have one of the lowest dropout rates in the education system, with a 99.7% of graduates from the basic 9-year comprehensive program. They also have one of world’s highest literacy rates.
Johnson highlighted the similarities and differences between the U.S. and Finnish education systems. Some of the more dramatic differences include:
- The Finnish equivalent of U.S. high school is not required.
- Each student’s education can be tailored to the career they wish to pursue.
- Children in grades 1 through 4 attend class for three hours per day; grades 5 through 9 for five hours per day.
- Children are required to take a 15 minute break outside every hour.
“I do believe that if we are to foster a sense of peace and mutual understanding, international exchange programs are extremely important, and I would encourage any student, teacher, or faculty member to look into exchange program or other opportunities,” Johnson said.
Johnson was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland, where she taught interdisciplinary research courses and began a research study investigating the impact of disciplinary training, psychological type and nationality on personal epistemological style.
The President’s Colloquium was hosted by the Office of the President.