Secondary Maths - The Human Factor

Part of the series Finland

  Screen capture from Secondary Maths - The Human Factor


Nigel Bispham, a deputy head teacher from Cornwall, visits Finland to discover why the country has scored so well in the international OECD PISA assessments.

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Nigel visits Jukka Sinivirta's class at Martinlaakso Lower Secondary School on the edge of Helsinki to observe the Finnish way of teaching. After the lesson Jukka talks to Nigel about the deep respect he has for his pupils.

Nigel questions why Jukka bows to his class at the start of lessons, and learns that Jukka has a real interest in his pupils and their development. Jukka explains that his class are the future of Finland, so deserve respect.

Jukka teaches a class of 22 pupils and says his methods work best in smaller classes. The teachers discuss whether the method would be of good use in a mixed class of 30-plus pupils in the UK.


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    • Can't import the "Finnish approach" - cultural roots
      16 September 2009 - 15:46

      I'm afraid the "Finnish approach" can't be exported wholesale to any other cultural context.

      A by no means exhaustive list of aspects that make the Finnish approach work (in my short experience as a Brit who's lived here in Helsinki for 7 years and has a daughter in primary education at the moment): 1. Finns have a deep and lasting respect for the teaching profession and education in general, people aspire to be teachers! 2. Parents respect the job teachers do an let them do it (they are not well paid but they enjoy high status). The government lets teachers get on with teaching, 3. Parents are reminded several times a year to come into the school anytime to observe lessons or any other part of the school day. 4. Teachers at all levels hold master's degree qualifications in pedagogy and are left to get on with it without too many restrictions. 5. All facilities are in good repair and teaching aids are plentiful (with little damage from arson and vandalism because kids are generally protective of their schools and use the playground areas after school). 6. Active after school clubs from everything from art to athletics etc. 7. Short and sweet school days (e.g. 8-9 year olds 9 till 1/2pm). 8. Small class sizes (20-25). 9. Many kids have an early sense of self reliance from looking after themselves in the afternoons. 10. Kids here also get to roam free, expend a lot of energy, climb trees and skin their knees. 11. And so on.....

      I think I can sum it up by relating a somewhat minor bugbear I do have with the Finnish Ed System and is that my daughter's favourite expression is "Teacher!" to put her parents right!

      I think if you ask any Finnish school kid who the 10-15 most important people are in their lives, there is a good chance that their teacher will figure in there for many? How about in the UK, top 100?

      I think the things that CAN be imported are ideas that allow a refocusing away from testing and performance by giving teachers more autonomy, a focus on quality rather then quantity of teaching, higher level academic teacher training qualifications, improving the status of teaching as a profession.

    • Mathematics in Finland
      7 December 2007 - 02:07

      It is quite obvious to me that the relationship between teacher and pupil is critical to the end result whether we are measuring final exam numbers or simply the ability of the students to improve and maintain their skills. Australian class sizes are still too large on average so that relationships can only be built superficially. The whole family to school ethos is quite different and this is made obvious at the beginning of the videoed lesson. It is however nothing we can't fix with the help of the Ed. departments and the government. Long term we need to value teachers more in society as the Finns do.

    • Relationships mean most
      16 September 2007 - 03:44

      This video backs up exactly my thoughts and findings about student - teacher relationships, to me ths is the most important thing to get right in the class in order to achieve success. My priority at the beginning of the year is not to keep up with the hectic scheme of work, but to get to know my students as individuals and find out what makes them tick. This has meant success with a great deal of students (still a lot more work to be done!). I have also researched students at the school indirectly through Bebo and found that having a good relationship with the teacher came up top with them when asked 'What is most likely to help you succeed at school'.
      Finland is definitely the benchmark, but I don't envisage us having class sizes as small as that ever! As for not mind is still out!