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From Dundee to Finland for work experience

March 15, 2010

One of the most impressive experiences of the day was meeting four students of Health and Social Care at Dundee College who were as surprised to see me as I was to see them !

With the Vice Principal of the College in a Dental Technicians Class

They were just starting on a four week work experience  placement in similar sectors in Helsinki and there s a strong link between Dundee College (and Stevenson College as well as a list of others in Europe) ) and the Helsinki City College of Social and Health Care which is a vocational upper school within the Finnish system.

Outside the College of Social and Health Care

I went there this morning to look at vocational education and some of the new assessment challenges (similar to Curriculum for Excellence) which the system is introducing.

That visit followed discussions about the Curriculum at the National Education Board and a very wide ranging but productive debate with Pasi Sahlberg, who directs the Centre for International Mobility (a body that seeks to bring in, and send out Finnish students for wider experience).   After the College I had lunch with the State Secretary for Education and then had two useful meetings within the Palmenia Centre for Continuing Education, the largest lifelong learning institute  in Europe.   Finally this evening the British Ambassador, Dr Valerie Caton, invited the Scottish Government party for a drink at the Embassy and gave an interesting and wide ranging introduction to Finland and current Finnish issues.   She and her obliging staff also efficiently solved a passport problem for one of our group.

Reflecting on the day and fuelled by  an excellent dinner in a restaurant featuring cuisine from Lapland –  rye bread, local cheese, reindeer, elk, the vendace (much too rare in Scotland to be eaten) and lots of berries appear to be the staples – there already seem to be several key themes to mull over when I get back.    Teacher education is of central importance and so is the content of the curriculum.   Vocational education is an area for renewed consideration (common problems but some common solutions too)  but the dog that didn’t bark,  here in Finland at least , is structure.  There are over 350 municipalities and all deliver education in a state model that takes a national curriculum and adapts locally – without much dissent or dispute.   But of course this is a system which has very little deviation in quality between the best and worst – the smallest in the world according to international comparisons – and which also out performs any other in Europe.   Food for thought as we move on early tomorrow morning to Sweden.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2010 9:56 pm

    Observant blogging. Yes, it’s an interesting system. And a long way from what’s commonplace in either your fair land or mine… 🙂
    But it does give pause for thought.

    Looking forward to the Swedish ‘report’

  2. March 16, 2010 3:26 pm

    As a Scot who has been living here in Helsinki for over 6 months now, I can testify to some of the positive aspects of the Finnish education system, particularly the vocational system they have in place and the levels of foreign language attainment.

    Amazed that you popped into the embassy rather than here for an ex-pat cuppa Cabinet Secretary! Hopefully your visits to Finland and Sweden can produce some useful insights that can be applied to further improving our education system.

  3. Jean MacMillan permalink
    March 22, 2010 5:56 pm

    I agree that ‘teacher education is of central importance’ At the Determined to Succeed International Gathering a Finish Delegate spoke of the importance Finland puts on the qualifications of their teachers – from ‘kindergarten’ to Secondary. All teachers have to have a Masters Degree (kindergarten teachers require a BA but many have a Masters) and teachers are held in high esteem in their communities – you might hear in Finland someone saying ‘I decided to be a doctor because I couldn’t get into education’!

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