Anyone who has been following the latest developments in education locally and internationally is aware of the huge progress Finland has enjoyed in this area over the past few years. The country has not only been recognised as offering quality education at higher levels with optimum results but has also obtained excellent results in international examinations such as Pisa and Timms. Consequently, educators and policymakers across the world, including Malta, have taken a special interest in the Finnish education system and its characteristics.

Following an agreement reach­ed last February with Learning Scoop Finland, four teachers from the school – Renette Magro, Charlotte Zammit, Sara Schembri and Maria Agius – and myself spent a week in Tampere, Finland, where we had the opportunity to visit schools and other educational institutions to observe various lessons and discuss the Finnish educational system with other educators, schools’ heads as well as students. Accompanying us were other heads of schools and educators from Thailand, Hong Kong, the US and the Philippines.

We were not surprised that Finland’s education sector is obtaining such excellent results in international assessments in recent years

Johanna Jarvinen Taubert, Juha Lahtinen, Paivi Valtonen, Elina Harju and Elimaja Ahonen from Learning Scoop showed us what makes the Finnish educational system so special. We observed the main differences between the Finnish system and ours and initiatives that could be adopted by the Maltese education system without major changes. One must, however, keep in mind that Finland spends an estimated €7,000 on each child every year to attend school.

During the study tour the Maltese educators visited four schools with different traditions and organisations, 14 public libraries, the Vapriiki Museum and the University of Tampere. The Maltese group were briefed about the main principles underlying the Finnish education system; the new curriculum for Finnish schools and how it is reflected in the teaching and the assessment of students of different ages; the support given to children with learning difficulties; inclusive education; counselling and other welfare services that are offered to students; teaching away from the classroom in the open air; and the way a Finnish school is organised and managed.

From what we observed during the visit we were not surprised that Finland has developed so much in the education sector and is obtaining such excellent results in international assessments in recent years.

Besides the directors of Learning Scoop of Tampere, the visit was supported by Valentina Manuela Pecora from the Malta Vocational Centre, Ruth Mansueto and Omar Vella.

Next March, officials from Learning Scoop Finland will once again visit Malta and in collaboration with our school we will organise the second and third national workshops on the Finnish educational system. Then in summer more teachers from our school will visit Tampere for a similar experience.

Any other Maltese educators who would like to join the visit are invited to send an e-mail to materbon@gmail.com.

Kenneth Vella is headmaster of Mater Boni Consilii St Joseph School, Paola.

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