November 2012

The Finland Phenomenon: What can Canada learn from it?

I am teaching a very interesting graduate course this term. In one of the meetings, my students suggested us to replace the readings I recommended them by the recent report by OECD: Top of the Class: High Performers in Science in PISA 2006.  This report was an excellent choice as it made us all think where Canada is compared to other nations, where we want to be, how do we measure literacy in science, mathematics and in other ideas… We also have an advantage of having students in the class who come from India, China, Canada, the US, former Soviet Union, Iran, Israel, and Micronesia… This report also made us think about how future teachers are prepared, who is drawn to become a teacher in Canada, how much freedom our teachers have in the classroom, how well prepared our teachers are to do their job. Consequently another student recommended to watch a number of movies about Finland, whose educational system has been revamped completely during the past 30 years… I watched the movies with fascination, especially the one by Robert Compton… Although the movies left me with more questions than others, I keep wondering how come in our society teaching is not valued as it should be? How come do we allow students who have not been very successful in their undergraduate studies (top 30% of the class for me is very successful) to be accepted in the colleges of education? How come do we shorten teacher education programs not allowing teacher-candidates to get prepared? How come our teacher-candidates are not supported right after graduation and are often sent to the most difficult schools where nobody will mentor them? I have two children and I cannot even express how important teachers have been in their lives, so why aren’t we ready to acknowledge it and to support the teaching profession in a way that it will attract the best and the brightest young people? This year my long term dream came true – I am engaged in teaching future physics teachers. Teaching these students is a breath of fresh air for me. I am very grateful that these people decided to become teachers. I can see their love for science, for teaching and readiness to work very hard to learn how to become the best teacher they can be. I hope they find jobs after graduation and I hope they are supported beyond UBC. However, I keep wondering how will our educational system support them? I also wonder what can I do as a teacher educator to support them beyond graduation… What can Canada learn from Finland is probably the secondary question, the primary question should be – do we love our children enough to provide them an opportunity to be mentored by well educated, talented and passionate people during the school years? My answer to the second question is certainly YES and I hope Canada will start valuing education as much as we value sport and entertainment… We need to give our children an opportunity to fulfill themselves and we need educated and passionate adults to help them out in their journey.

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