Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Educational System to Emulate

After seeing a video on Finland's schools, a priest working with the youth in the diocese, in an article for priests, compares the school system of Finland with the one we have here in Korea.  Finland 60 years ago was, he says, very similar to Korea, but since then both countries have gone in different directions.

"Since we have nothing, nothing is to be thrown away" sums up the Finnish approach to any issue or problem. Being a small powerless country, it  considers their people its greatest resource, and believes any society formed by those that have been brought up to compete with others is not healthy, and that all of a student's strong points have to be developed to have a healthy country. These were the thoughts of the priest as he watched the video.

For the first nine years of schooling in Finland, there are no exams and no grades. You compete with yourself and not with others. After 9 years, there is a national exam that determines what schools and  students are doing well and not so well. What the priest found significant and different were the efforts being made to help the students and schools that are not doing well.  Finland's educational policy is designed to help raise the level of all the students and all the schools, with the goal of producing better students and schools. No one in this educational agenda is to be left out, and it's all free until the master's degree in college.

Both Finland and Korea score very high in the international tests, but the priest notes that in Finland, they have no private programs of study; they are interested in all the students, not only the good students. In Korea, however, the students have no time to play but are always at the books, preparing for exams.  He asks, whimsically, why is it that Korean students have the world's greatest amount of private study, studying from morning until night, and yet don't do any better than students from a country without private study and with concern for helping the poorer student?

The priest recalls a meeting of all those in the diocese who work with students. They went to where a priest  had a shelter for young people. The priest at the shelter shocked the group by recounting that in the past those who had difficulty fitting in at school were disciplined or suspended for a short period of time but now  told not to come back to school. Many of them wander the streets, receive food aid, and are involved  with drugs.He laments that the  present situation with our young people is troubling.

Our society finds it easy to see and reward the attractive,  bright and accomplished young people but not so keen in helping the unattractive, slow-to-learn and less accomplished. Finland has made an important discovery that Korea, and the rest of the world would do well to acknowledge and emulate.  Incorporating the best features of the Finnish school system means less emphasis on  the economics of the  country and  more interest  on its greatest resource people.

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