An enviable education system seems to have replaced paying its war debts as the most common popular stereotype about Finland today. It seems that scarcely a day goes by without some media attention to the Finnish model, as teams of educators, from the United States and elsewhere, are trekking to Finland to see for themselves why students in this Nordic nook do so well on international measures of learning.
February’s “Film from Finland,” The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System addresses the question of how the Finns have done it, especially in the face of what are often thought to be obstacles to educational progress here – little standardized testing, relatively little homework, strong teacher unions, and substantial classroom autonomy for teachers and students. Indeed, the subtitle of The Finland Phenomenon declares that Finland’s success is “surprising.” This suggests that what Finland is doing runs counter to many expectations and orthodoxies embraced in the United States and elsewhere.
Here’s the trailer for the video:
These and many other issues will be the subject of a panel discussion following the sixty-minute documentary to be shown on February 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Swedish Cultural Center. Members of the panel include John Burbank, Aija Elg, Karoliina Kuisma and Jenni Salmi. John, who is executive director of the Seattle-based Economic Opportunity Institute, has a long-standing interest in Finnish education and has given presentations on the subject.
Aija, currently a lecturer in Finnish in the UW Scandinavian Department, is also an experienced classroom teacher in secondary schools in Finland.
Karoliina was the previous lecturer in Finnish at the University of Washington and now focuses her pedagogy and skills on teaching young children, including her own.
Jenni Salmi is both a product of Finnish schools as well as a practitioner of innovative methods of teaching the Finnish language in a variety of settings here, including FFSC-sponsored classes. Moderating the panel will be Mia Spangenberg, recent Ph.D. recipient in Finnish Studies from the University of Washington. Mia’s employment is in the growing nexus of technology and language.
The Finland Phenomenon will be shown again at the same location on February 24, but no panel discussion will accompany it. A $5.00 donation may be made at the door for both showings. The Swedish Cultural Center is located at 1920 Dexter Avenue and has ample parking.