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Can Botswana replicate Finnish Education System?

Publishing Date : 05 February, 2018

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Education with multiple pathways to start in 2019

The Minister of Basic Education Unity Dow speaks highly of the Finnish education system, generally considered the best in the world. Finland forms part of Nordic countries, that also comprise of countries like; Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland. These four are considered the ‘perfect societies” for their commitment towards ensuring that every citizen has access to quality health care and education through their distinct welfare state model.

According to Minister Dow, from 2019, government will start implementing education with multiple pathways as part of efforts to reform the country’s education system. This, she said would be to compliment the current system which is primarily academic, while introducing other pathways for students who cannot handle purely academic subjects. This education system is common in advanced economies, including Finland.

There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. Dow too, is not a big fan of Botswana’s current education system as she is of the view that pupils are being ‘over tested’.  She would rather have schools increasing teaching time for Maths, Science, English and Setswana, while reducing teaching time for other subjects, and also not have them tested in exams.

“I have looked at the testing tradition in primary schools country wide. I found that we over test students. We have seven subjects; most school test for four, some do not test at all. They do not have national tests but instead do continuous assessment,” contended the minister of Basic Education.  

In Finland, the people in the government agencies running schools, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town.

The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This is so because equality is the most important word in Finnish education; all political parties on the right and left agree on this.

While the Finns continue to top in Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) examinations, they are rather eager to celebrate their world hockey championship achievement, than PISA scores.  This is so because the Finnish system believes they “prepare children to learn how to learn, not how to take a test.”

Teachers in Finland spend fewer hours at school each day and spend less time in classrooms than teachers in other parts of the world. Teachers use the extra time to build curriculums and assess their students. Children spend far more time playing outside, even in the depths of winter. Homework is minimal. Compulsory schooling does not begin until age 7; because the system believes they should only start when they are ready.

It’s almost unheard of for a child to show up hungry or homeless. Finland provides three years of maternity leave and subsidized day care to parents, and preschool for all 5-year-olds, where the emphasis is on play and socializing. In addition, the state subsidizes parents, paying them around 150 Euros (about P1 800) per month for every child until he or she turns 17. Ninety-seven percent of 6-year-olds attend public preschool, where children begin some academics. Schools provide food, medical care, counselling and taxi service if needed. Student health care is free.

In Finland, not only are bachelor degree programs completely free of tuition fees, so are master and doctoral programs. Students pursue higher education goals without the mountains of student loan debt that many American students face. And the same goes for foreign students. Tuition is free for any student accepted into a college or graduate program in Finland.

Teaching in Finland, is one of the most revered professions with a relatively high barrier to entry. Only one in 10 students who apply to teacher education programs are admitted, according to the Centre on International Education Benchmarking (CIEB).
Because the teaching profession attracts the brightest and highly qualified individuals, the education system also offers teachers with more autonomy in teaching methods.

Teachers in Finland are treated like professors at universities, and they teach fewer hours during the day than teachers in other parts of the world, with more time devoted to lesson planning. Teachers also get paid slightly more in Finland. For instance, the average teacher in the US makes about $41,000 (about P 391 845) a year, compared to $43,000 (P 410 959) in Finland, according to OECD data.
Additional reporting by: smithsonianmag.com



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