Sunday, 7 December 2008

Policy of equality

'A central objective of Finnish education policy is to provide all citizens with equal opportunities to receive education, irrespective of their age, domicile, financial situation, sex or native language.'

This is reflected in many ways:
1. Education from pre-primary to upper secondary levels is provided free of charge. For basic eduaction, travel to and from school and school books are free. And a healthy free school lunch (though kids tend to complain about it!)

2. The education standard is fairly uniform throughout Finland - with a less than 5% deviation in the average performance of schools. State or publicly funded schools (which account for 98%) are at least just as good as, if not better than, private schools. That means kids don't have to pay their way in for a GOOD education.

3. The fundamental belief underlying equality is that different children are simply 'different' - there is nothing amazing about high achieving students or it's no shame to learn a bit more slowly. It is only a difference in the learning ability of a student, and that should not change the fact that the child should get adequate education opportunities to develop themselves. I was really impressed when many teachers in Finnish schools share with me their philosophy, which is surprisingly consistent. They don't have a sense of hierarchy between different students, or practise favouritism! The goal of education is simply to help each child to improve. That actually reflects many ancient chinese philosophies 因材施教,有教無類 We hear these terms being bandied about from time to time, but Finnish education REALLY puts it into practice by, for example, devoting more resources to special education classes, giving more resources to children of ethnic minorities to take free extra language classes to keep and develop their native tongue.

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