Saturday, 10 January 2009

Contribution of Finnish society to pursuit of interests and dreams

This is the bit that I really struggled - I know too little about Finnish society to say anything meaningful perhaps, but I have still thought about some observations I had through my own eyes and other people's lenses.

Firstly, I can see the Finnish society provides the necessary foundation for the flourishing art and culture industry.

  • strong social welfare that removes a lot of economic and financial worries and anxiety behind innovation, which is high risk investment. The costs and disincentives of creative endeavours are reduced. This is the MOST important factor I think - people's livelihood is not threatened or undermined or prejudiced by doing what they want to do. (this is also possible only because the population is very small for a country of the size of Finland - only 5 million)
  • a multicultural society that already exists - this is a controversial statement, certainly not to the same extent as London, and most Finnis would seem to disagree with this, but I found the atmosphere in creative industries pervasive, for example. There are enough people to appreciate the diversity - something akin to a cultivated civil society.
  • equality between jobs – different occupations are respected in their own right. There is less pressure to do some kinds of jobs than in many other places. this leads to a more even distribution of manpower and financial resources.
  • society values the individual – respect what each individual thinks and wants to do. less family pressure or pressure from social norms.
  • education promotes freedom and liberty in students’ development from an early age. students have always been encouraged to think for themselves. There is a City architecture project for children, and they apparently adopted children's proposal for building a prominent city building. That sounds like incredulous confidence in children, but that says quite a lot. Regrettably I didnt manage to find out more about this when I was in helsinki.

Secondly, there is some contribution from the 'Finnish character' if there is any such thing (which I believe there is).

  • honest and serious worker who only wants to do the job well. It might initially sound a very plain irrelevant statement, but that actually makes a HUGE difference. I strongly get the impression most people in Finland (except the drunken) had a serious attitude to what they did as a living in respect of the SUBJECT MATTER itself, rather than treating jobs as a means to earning money.
  • don’t like money, just for fun - thats what someone wrote and told me before. I also got that impression from the Finnish guide who led me to wonderful tours at EXTREMELY LOW PRICES with a meagre profit )

Contribution of the education system

The education system promotes the development of interests and pursuit of dreams in these three ways:
A. The system gives students plenty of choice in encouraging their development.

diversity of subjects in the curriculum – broad range of choices for them to dabble in and try out. I have shown just bits of the system really, but one gets the idea that secondary school is like university - students have SO MUCH CHOICE re learning literally what they like.

• the inspiring and liberal teaching approach - "first the forest, then the trees" (see the section on 'interest development' for more details on my discovery!) – Yolanda Chen introduced this concept which I find as well a very accurate description! Basically they show the students the whole picture before going down to details and honing their skills too early.

This encourages the students to explore their own way of learning their subjects, without so much discipline and control in ensuring precision when they are getting started. Students are more likely to keep up and further develop their interests. The more advanced and rigorous training can be reserved for those who are determined and interested to go further.

• postponing the streaming, and introducing flexibility and reversibility in the decisions young people have to make. Students DON'T HAVE TO SACRIFICE AND GIVE UP THEIR INTERESTS BEFORE THEY ARE OLD ENOUGH TO TELL WHAT THEIR INTERESTS REALLY ARE!

• young people are encouraged to have a balanced life with lots of ‘hobbies’. They don’t consider the sports or music as rigid training purely for the sake of cultivating their abilities or ‘talents’ in those areas. Rather, they aim to help the people to enjoy and learn in a relaxed manner, and ultimately to incorporate their areas of interests as part of their lives. This turns on the purpose and attitude in pursuing their interests – it is not for the sake of standing out from others, but for the genuine love of their hobbies. (See Julius's case for instance)

• Individual fine tuning and attention – allowing students to learn at their own pace and the curriculum and learning materials are designed for individual students.

- Encourage independent learning and thinking AND ACQUISITION of knowledge and skills - Teachers don’t give them the answers, but they help them to find the answers for themselves. (don’t give them the fish, but teach them how to fish – this way the next generation of fishermen have the ability to explore uncharted waters and go to greater lengths and depths) They are more likely to find their own worlds this way in my opinion. (See independence)

• Actual subject called Student counselling which includes classes and individual sessions with students from Grades 7 to 9 (Forms 1 to 3) to tell them what sort of options are available to them, and help them work out what to do (primarily choose between high school and technical schools). There is also one week of compulsory work experience with enterprises in the real world (organised with the help of the school). This makes the options in society known to young people in time for them to make plans for themselves – options only mean something if they are known to our next generation, and they have reasonable chance of working towards it.

B. education values: equality; respect for every child and free education for all

• no child is left behind – free education for all means every child can in theory have access to good school education irrespective of their family backgrounds and financial situation. Talented children do not lag behind because of a competition at the starting point. The philosophy behind this is that the government believes they cannot afford to lose any member of the society. Teachers IN GENERAL don't seem to think there are bad students in Finland (only with one exception from my experience)

RESPECT THE INDIVIDUAL - the individual ability, potential, thoughts, interests of each child are respected. they are encouraged to think for themselves, independently and critically from very early on. They are not meant to walk the paths already explored by the previous generations – they are meant to find out what they like themselves or their own way of going about things, and do as they wish.

• To look at this from another perspective - the philosophy of no child left behind taken further: the interests, needs and dreams of children are respected, and the society and education system try to facilitate their all-round development to the extent possible for the individuals.

comparison is not encouraged, so students do not easily feel frustrated when they don’t initially excel or master their interests. Students are encouraged to learn at their own pace, and not rushed or pushed much when they are young. Benefits of small class teaching.

C. The education system has plenty of resources and has a firm legal basis to ensure that everyone is capable of working towards these ideals.

I certainly acknowledge the decisiveness of money as a factor.
• education expenditure occupied 6.5% of GDP. Lots of resources were devoted to the system.

• various pieces of legislation to secure the quality and rights of free education for all

• teachers’ masters qualifications (either in education or their own respective subjects). the teachers themselves set good role models for lifelong learning – always enrolled in postgraduate courses during vacation time. there is in-service training as well.

Finnish society and education --> Dreams??

I already feel incredibly ashamed how i have been doing many other things all these months but write up my report and learn a bit more ... (and feeling legitimately excused because of my busy life with all the tutorials and seminars and exams lol) but since I have an opportunity now timewise and after I have unleashed my emotions, I'll write a concluding entry about my understanding after this brief investigation - that is -

my understanding of the original hypothesis I wanted to look into:

How does the Finnish education system and society help their young people to pursue their interests and dreams?

Whilst I'm afraid I still don't have a very simple and conclusive answer (which i dont think exists anyway), I have concluded my thoughts as follows. I have written a report initially which presented an overview. I by no means claim that Finland does this better than anyone else, but I just thought given how well it has done in the general tests and surveys, I wondered if it was equally good in THIS RESPECT.

Please see the following two entries: Contribution of education and Contribution of society.





這次回來就是考那一些試,我已經很厭倦這樣的生活,這樣的人生,從頭到晚都是忙忙碌碌的, 天昏地暗的學習了一整年,回到香港還是要考試,我要的是這些麽?是理性與感性,任性與責任之爭,可笑吧?




Friday, 2 January 2009

a new year

The morning of 1st Jan was greeted with some amazing rejuvenating sunshine and a nice blue sky. I hope this signals a bright year ahead for everyone. i didn't spend new years eve in hk in the last few years and last year i was watching two movies at home. this year i hung out with my school friends after midnight for a late dessert round. and after being prompted to do a review i also quietly undertook a review of 2008 in bed.

A year can be just a number, but there are also so many memories underneath this innocent number. My friend said it was a generally good year for him, and i found myself instinctively saying my year has been a terrible one except for the graduation. I was a bit startled by my own response, a very negative one.

Maybe i can blame it on oxford again lol how this place has depressed me and crowned me with such a negative outlook. as another friend said, no one seems to understand what we've been through. i have very little faith in people understanding each other - we can only try i guess.

Worse still it was probably an unnecessary negative emotion, without reason, without even a plausible explanation. i tend to overanalyse things and think about the same questions for my whole life. dont really want to go into it but i'm glad 2008 is finally over. i have been waiting long enough.

the more important realisation my quiet reflections gave me was how incredibly lucky and annoying i am. I have a most amazing amazing amazing amazing family and loads of great great great great friends. I have really good opportunities and everything can be regarded as plain sailing for me all along i suppose. I probably have everything i can possibly need but theres still this ridiculous lingering unhappiness. I really have nothing to complain about, and must** be a better person to deserve all this great fortune. and thats my new year resolution. I should stop fretting over nothing, and I should be a 'better' man.

This is to say thank you for everyone who has been bearing with me for so long.