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© 2019 EduCluster Finland Ltd, University of Jyväskylä Group, Finland
We enter 2020 celebrating and reflecting on the 2019 OECD PISA results. This is the first time that Growth Mindset is examined. Students are asked if ‘your intelligence is something about you that you can’t change very much’. Believing that we can improve ourselves through effort and reflecting on how to do it is firmly established in Finnish education. Reflection on ‘lessons learnt’ is a key operational pillar of Finnish learning organizations, including EduCluster Finland.
As we embrace 2020, we reflect on the past decade, recognize the achievements, mistakes and triumphs, and continue our pursuit of developing educational excellence globally with friends, past, present and future.
We specialise in two holistic learning approaches increasingly adopted in leading-edge schools globally, both of which were launched in Finland. 1. Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), is a highly acclaimed methodology used for teaching through English in bilingual, international, and national schools. 2. Phenomenon-based Learning (PhBL) is a transversal across-the-curriculum technique recently introduced into Finland’s latest National Core Curriculum. On-site workshops provided by CLIL and PhBL experts empower educators with know-how and skills to use these high-impact practices in their classrooms.
In collaboration with our partners and school networks, we provide opportunities to experience Finnish daily school life. These hands-on visits enable educators to see Finnish education in action and make decisions on which ideas could be adopted in their own schools and countries. 1:1 mentoring and a full support service makes these opportunities highly individualised and insightful.
As re-shaped working life requires new competences and skills, our educational systems respond by pro-actively providing state-of-the-art vocational education and training programmes. Finnish VET programmes for students in other countries are accredited by the Finnish National Agency for Education, delivered through an authorised provider, and recognised at the European Qualification Framework levels 4 and 5 in the EU and most OECD countries.
Having graduated from the University of Oulu as an international class teacher, Saana Khalil taught at the Vesala primary school for two years before the idea of going abroad became irresistible. She joined us to work as a class teacher in a state school for girls in the city of Al Ain in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The school had a Finnish principal and some other Finnish teachers, and the students were local children. Saana taught in Al Ain for a total of four years.
The Al Ain school followed a British-style curriculum. Compared to Finland, schooldays were long, and being taught by turns in English and Arabic was challenging for the students. Saana, on the other hand, was challenged by implementing child-oriented teaching. She had to learn to apply Finnish pedagogy to a totally unfamiliar context.
“My four years there included every emotional state imaginable. At times I found it tough, and school inspections put a lot of pressure on us. But I did a lot of teamwork with the other teachers which was really inspiring. The teachers chosen for projects like these are ones who crave challenges and give it their best. They became close friends to me, and the most important memory I have of that time is my gratitude for everything I learned and experienced.”
When Saana returned to Finland, she was equipped with skills to better understand and respond to diversity and interculturality. As she had studied Arabic throughout her four years in Al Ain, Saana was able to talk about basic things with many of the refugee children and their parents at her local school.
Last summer, we sent Saana to Beijing for two weeks to provide further training to local class teachers.
“China is completely different to Europe and the Middle East, and I found the experience fascinating. Whether it’s two weeks or four years, you learn so much from working abroad and take home a lot of practical new insights to apply in your own class.”
For groups of educators seeking a compact and interactive training package, we have developed a portfolio of FINNspire Days which offer a gateway to Finland’s education concept. Use our FINNspire Programme Builder to create your bespoke learning experience.
The University of Jyväskylä offers a wide range of degree programmes in English. One of these is the two-year Master’s Degree Programme in Educational Sciences. The aims of this programme include developing educator competences to enhance the quality of education in global contexts. ECF facilitates study of this programme, and elements of it, for client needs in countries outside of Finland. It also acts to provide tailored university level study programmes according to specific interests across the whole educational spectrum from KG to Higher Education and TVET.
We understand that to succeed in changing markets, you need to have a skilled workforce, no matter the field. This is why we offer flexible and work-based learning opportunities for young learners and adults. The qualifications are accredited by the Finnish National Agency for Education, delivered through the authorised provider Jyväskylä Educational Consortium Gradia, and recognised at the European Qualification Framework levels 4 and 5 in the EU and most OECD countries.
For those looking for more comprehensive, longer-term solutions, we also offer cutting-edge professional development programmes tailored to your education strategy.
Our shared journey with University Lecturer Piia Parviainen began with a partnership project in Saudi Arabia where Piia performed the duties of an expert of early childhood education. Several years of collaboration resulted in recommendations for a pedagogically high-quality learning environment and a curriculum that applied Finnish pedagogic principles, while lending itself well to the Saudi culture.
When we founded an international school with a Finnish-style curriculum in Doha, Qatar in 2014, Piia was its first vice-principal. Her workdays in her new home country were filled with creating the school’s operating principles, compiling its curriculum, making student assessments, developing student selection and student welfare services and supporting the teachers.
“In many ways, the work of a vice-principal consisted of doing lots of new things because we were creating an international school that utilised the principles of Finnish pedagogy from scratch. For example, when we needed assessment forms and forms for absent students, we created them ourselves.”
This international posting taught Piia the importance of constructive interaction and supportive managerial work in the everyday routines of a school. The experience also illustrated the significant role confidential collaboration plays in Finnish educational and training know-how.
After returning home from Qatar, Piia went back to her job as a university lecturer at the University of Jyväskylä’s Faculty of Education. Internationality is an obvious part of her work, as her students are future education professionals from all over the world, seeking to learn about Finnish pedagogy and teaching methods.
“When I returned from Qatar I was a different person professionally. I understand what teachers and leaders from different cultures are going through because I have seen and experienced something similar myself. The most exhilarating part about my current job is to see how my international colleagues are inspired by the Finnish way of teaching and encountering students. When professionals take what they have learned here and apply it to everyday life in their kindergartens and schools, I know the effects of my work are far-reaching.”
How long have you been working at Qatar–Finland International School?
“I’m now into my fifth academic year at Q.F.I. School.”
Could you tell us something about your background?
“I got my teaching qualification in Sweden, and then I worked for 5 years as a class teacher in the Helsinki region.”
What is the best thing about your job?
“The students, my colleagues, and my diverse role (which includes lots of project and event coordination). It’s an amazing opportunity to be part of this unique venture of realising an international Finnish school outside of Finland. It’s great being supported by this international working community and getting to always develop myself as a teacher.”
Has your work at the school changed over the years?
“A great deal. For the first three years, I worked as a class teacher but after that, I was given the opportunity to teach crafts (woodwork) full time. This is my second year teaching crafts to Grades 3–9. Back when I first started in 2014, there were only a handful of us teachers for Grades 0–2, which altogether had 120 students. Today, the staff is 100-strong (including teachers, learning assistants, and other personnel) with several classes in each Grade from 0 to 9, and 750 students all in all.”
What do you miss from back home?
“Family and friends first and foremost, of course. When you spend the majority of your year out here in the desert, you do also miss the greenery of Finland (even though it is covered in snow for half of the year…) I do get a craving for pick ‘n’ mix sweets every now and again, but thankfully visits from friends are never too far apart so my stocks don’t get too low!”
What would you say to someone considering Q.F.I. School as a career move? What kind of a teacher do you think would be in their element at the school?
“I would say: Welcome! We are a bunch of experts of our field, but there’s always room for more. The skills you should have when you come here are exactly the skills that can be found in each and every Finnish teacher: team working skills, creativity, flexibility, and the ability to adapt. You want to keep developing your competences as a teacher, and are also keen to share your niche area of expertise with your colleagues.”