Finland has seen repeated success in national education rankings since it implemented education reforms 40 years ago. Experts have argued that this is due to the fact that it goes against the competitive, evaluation driven and centralised model that we so frequently see in the Western World today. Yet, despite these results being published and continually evident in prime media outlets, the UK is yet to adopt any ‘leanings’ from the Finns and in 2016, continued to lag behind other leading countries in education, taking 15th place out of 70 in the Pisa rankings. Paul Smith, CEO of school communications app, Schoop, explains what we can learn from the Finnish system.
Cooperation is more important than competition
In Finland, there is no emphasis on competition which is prevalent in other Western countries. There are also no private schools but instead, every academic institution is funded through public money. Yet, in 2016 in the UK, it was noted that 7% of the population is privately educated and this ‘educated elite’ continues to dominate leading professions, including journalism, with 51% of leading print journalist said to be educated privately. Arguably, this attitude in the UK in helping to further the progressions of the privileged rather than providing an equal footing for the masses could be seen more of a hindrance to progression in the education sector than a help.
It’s a known fact that children in Finland have very little homework per night. This is said to be a system based on trust between schools, parents and teachers. Instead, time at home is treated as a priority and is reserved for quality family time where children develop social skills. This is very much opposite to attitudes we see in the UK. In 2016, the BBC reported that not only is high amounts of homework impacting children, but it also causes stress for parents. Yet, it is not proved that consistent levels of homework continue to deliver results so over time, many have questioned whether this is even necessary.
College tuition is free
Education in Finland is subsidised by a combination of taxpayer dollars and the Federal government. The Government believes that education is a human right and by providing this education for free it takes away much stress from students, which in turn, is said to allow them to thrive. However, this is unfortunately not an attitude that we see in the UK, where the university experience is treated as a business exchange rather than a divine right. Students who wish to go to University are lumped with fees of £27,000 across three years and many of these individuals are forced to take on a part-time job just to get by rather than focusing their full attention on their studies. This is also being reported to having a negative impact on the overall mental health of our young people which surely cannot be sustainable?
Early education is not measured
In 2016, people in the UK were shocked to read that children as young as six were stressed about exams and results. As a whole, a significant amount of pressure is placed on children and their abilities from a young age in the UK which is measured frequently through tests. Yet Finland shows us that perhaps it doesn’t have to be this way. Before kids learn traditional lessons such as times tables, there is a focus on social skills, teaching children how to play with one another and deal with emotional issues. During this time, children are not measured at all for their performance but are instead taught to develop socially without putting a measure on this. This begs the question: as a teacher or parent, which structure would you prefer?
Teaching is a respected profession
In the UK, we consistently see teacher strikes due to overwhelming expectations and lack of pay. In the Western world, it’s quite common to hear the phrase, ‘Those who can’t do, teach’, which completely undermines what these talented individuals do on a daily basis. Yet, teaching is regarded as a well-respected profession by the Finnish people and due to this attitude, teachers aren’t underpaid. Instead, to become a teacher in Finland, candidates must get their master’s degree and complete a residency programme which provides them with significant levels of experience.
There is much to be learnt from the Finnish education system. Not only do children report being happier and performing better at these younger school days, but in 2011, it was reported that 66% of students go to college, which was the highest rate in Europe and one that the UK should envy – in 2017 it was reported that just 49% of students in England go on to study in University. Granted, university will not be the end goal for all students but the Finnish culture suggests that there are great benefits to their approach and ensuring that education remains an option to all. If the UK chooses to undertake at least some of these reforms, our students across all age ranges could benefit significantly. Realistically, so could our country as a whole.
Rewriting the future: Raising ambition and attainment in Welsh schools is a 2014 report that “describes the Welsh Government’s programme and its four key themes to tackle the link between poverty and educational underachievement in schools, for use in developing interventions to raise the attainment of learners living in poverty.”
Section 2 (pp. 20-22), titled ‘Family and community engagement’, deals with the already well known link between parental engagement and pupil attainment. The report emphasises how difficult it is to establish and maintain this link in so-called hard to reach areas, but goes on to say how effective such a link can be for strengthening communities and positively impacting educational practices:
Many schools in disadvantaged communities find that engaging parents/carers is one of the biggest challenges they face…Community engagement has a positive influence on learning outcomes. Schools that reach out and actively engage the community in the life of the school and the school in the life of the community have a positive impact on educational outcomes
In England, under the new Ofsted inspection framework, schools are graded on their ability to devise and implement effective parental engagement strategies. In order to obtain an outstanding judgement in terms of Leadership and Management, there must be evidence that:
The school has highly successful strategies for engaging with parents and carers, to the very obvious benefit of pupils, including those who might traditionally find working with the school difficult.
The criteria for success in this category is the same in England and Wales; family/community engagement is crucial for schools that want to achieve ‘outstanding’ rating from the inspectorate, and Schoop is an ideal tool for helping to meet this challenge.
Download the app and enter 123 when prompted for a Schoop ID to access our demo content channel and see how Schoop can work in your school or community organisation
“Research indicates that effective family and community engagement can have a positive impact on outcomes for all, but especially for learners from more deprived backgrounds. Schools should identify interventions that are effective in supporting parental and community engagement from the earliest opportunity. In particular, those in Communities First (CF) areas should look for opportunities to work with the CF Clusters. Schools’ strategies for the PDG should actively support the Learning Communities theme of the Communities First Programme and ensure that there is coherence and join-up with Families First and Flying Start provision to support families in their communities.
Parents and carers have an important role in supporting their child’s education, not just in the early years but throughout their education. Schools and regional consortia should be considering what activities schools can undertake in ensuring this message is communicated and in drawing parents into the learning process.”
Schoop reaches the “hard to reach”, and increases take up of PDG and Pupil Premium.
I’ve consulted many leaders of education, and every one of them has backed up Schoop’s ethos that sustained parental engagement can lead to positive effects on the KPIs schools strive for in attainment, behaviour and attendance of a child. Schoop can reach those that are hard to reach – particularly those with EAL or problems with written English, and with the help of the Pupil Premium for England and the Pupil Deprivation Grant for Wales, Schoop can solve a growing problem of digital inclusion, engagement and involvement like no other.
PROBLEM: The well trained gatekeeper will turn Schoop away
Schoop’s daily challenge to get through the doors of UK schools and demonstrate how we’re engaging parents of tens of thousands of children is about to get a great deal easier, but the person that answers the phone has their own ideas, and they include telling us to stop bothering the school with our crazy ideas!
- We actually want to help reach those that are deprived and those that are hard to reach
- We have a solution that could be paid for by Pupil Premium or the Pupil Deprivation Grant
- We help schools engage ALL parents and carers in the education of their children
- Schoop is multilingual and even speaks to you
- Parents and the wider school community LOVE what we do!
INDEPENDENT RESEARCH: To prove Schoop can help boost KPI results.
The 100s of UK schools we already help engage with parents is set to become 1,000s. We’ve been recognised as a leader of EdTech by TechCity and 10 Downing Street, but also because we’re independently selected as the preferred “school to home” engagement solution for the likes of Relational Schools. Their research project will be using Schoop from May 2015, and the results will offer independent data that hopefully backs up our extensive testimony from educators that Schoop is already making a difference.
HOW: Schoop will solve your parental engagement problem
For enquiries or press information, please contact Paul Smith – CEO
Interesting question … without a simple answer.
Complaints originating from social media make up “at least half” of calls passed on to front-line officers, a senior officer has told the BBC. See this article on the BBC website.
With that in mind, should the use of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like be outlawed as a method of communication from school to home?
I’ve spoken before about the use of social media in education, but the growing concern over the safety of children online, and the ability to respond with malice to posts on social networks makes me more and more inclined to back a possible ban. It’s online hate crime, and is sucking resources from our beleaguered public services, and the world has a duty to respond.
Who is responsible?
Ultimately, the issue is one of responsible use of social networks. But, the proclivity for idiotic rants and malicious replies to innocent posts make social networks a hotbed of controversy, and potentially unsafe for younger users that, we all know, have accounts – even if they are under age.
Not possible without additional safeguards that social networks are ill equipped to deal with. For the time being. My daughter was 12 when she created a Facebook account without parental consent. She simply said she was 18 when she signed up.
She had death threats from peers, and hateful comments that made her life a misery within weeks of registration.
Is Schoop a solution?
Obviously I’m going to put Schoop up there as a solution, because our communication is one-way and non-sensitive. There’s not much can go wrong, and Schoop is cyber-bully free. No moderation required, and you can sleep at night.
Should schools and other organisations that have a duty to safeguard children be using social networks to communicate with families?
Personally, I think not.
But what do you think?