Day 10 of the Quebec - Finland Expedition: vocational school

The Finnish vocational school ... a hybrid model between vocational training and Quebec CEGEPs, where digital technology plays a major role as much for the teacher as for the student who is at the gates of the job market.

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Our collaborator Marc-André Girard is on an educational expedition to Finland and documents it here!

(co-written with Marie-Andrée Croteau)

As written in a previous article, at the end of theinclusive school, the pupils choose a course: secondary school (general pre-university program) or vocational school. Today we visited two vocational schools.

First of all, this type of school must be demystified, because it is often perceived, even in Finland, that only pupils aged 16 to 19 can enroll in the vocational section. However, this is false; students aged 16 to 66 attend these schools. The youngest do it in the pursuit of their studies, after inclusive school. The others return to it as part of a professional reorientation or at the request of their employer to develop new skills as part of a professional development process. Also, part-time course offers are also possible. Note that in Finland, at the end of inclusive school, the half of the students chooses to continue his career in the vocational sector to enroll in programs such as those in practical nursing, electricity, plumbing, commerce, the arts, etc. For Quebec, this would correspond to a hybrid version between vocational training and technical training at CEGEP.

As in the general sector, teachers in vocational schools must have studies in pedagogy in addition to others related to their field of applied training. However, they are not required to hold a master's degree. In short, the teacher who teaches students to drive a dump truck is an experienced driver himself, and he has studied pedagogy in a university applied education program. Note that in Finland, as in other countries, there is a distinction between classical universities and other so-called "applied" (" University of applied science“), Offering more concrete and more applied programs.

These students leave the vocational course with a diploma in their pocket after three years of study (some do, however, in four years) and the possibility of joining the job market from then on. Those who wish can continue their studies in applied university programs.

According to the teachers we met, the pedagogical approach offered to students in this type of school corresponds to a proportion of approximately 20% of theory and 80% of practice and application in different ways. It should also be noted that these pupils continue to follow the basic curriculum of their colleagues in general secondary, such as mathematics, Finnish, physical education and a second language such as English or Swedish. However, they do not have to undergo a ministerial test at the end of the course.

Our first visit was to the vocational school Pohjoisen Keski-Suomen Ammattiopisto, also simply nicknamed POKE. The latter accommodates 2,500 students in six buildings scattered throughout the north-central part of the country. POKE enjoys a pan-Finnish reputation in the field of educational technologies. We were able to visit their 3D lab which looks like all makerspaces of this world with scanners and 3D printers. However, they are in the process of developing virtual reality environments that not only allow simulation for apprenticeship in skilled trades, but other environments that allow exchanges and collaborations between students and staff members. For example, they faithfully reproduced the small cozy living room located at the reception of building G (see the photo above). For Pekka Ouli, member of the school administration and former teacher, the applied training allows the learning not only of technical skills, but above all the adaptation, creativity and resolution of complex problems. Failure is unavoidable and is the basis of learning. Indeed, when students practice technical gestures, they regularly make mistakes and must practice regularly. This is the heart of practical training and failure is the starting point to propel them to professional heights.

Our second visit was to the vocational school Jyväskylän koulutuskuntayhtymä Gradia. It welcomes 10,000 full-time and 7,000 part-time students. In addition, it also contains a general secondary school with 3,000 students. In total, 750 teachers work there. The campus is huge, one of the largest in Finland. We met a team of seven pedagogical advisers there who are hard at work supporting teachers in their changes in practices, in their specialties and in respecting their expertise. For this team, pedagogical flexibility is essential, because the school welcomes students at any time of the year and, also, since a reform dating from a few years ago, 16-year-old students regularly rub shoulders with students from over 50 who are returning to school. It is therefore necessary to know how to adapt your teaching to the realities of each one: the youngest who does not know anything about welding, for example and the adult at the end of their career, who possibly has experience in the field or, at the very least, a history. life which means that certain concepts or practices could be accelerated.

According to the team members, without any hidden pride, Gradia students have missed absolutely no teaching day since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Teachers more or less ready to take the leap. distance education, however, were used to teaching in environments that stood out from the classroom: workshops, garages, hairdressing salons, etc. The virtual was nothing very scary for them!

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(Editor's note: The École branchée is happy to be a media partner of this expedition! Note that we are not, however, associated with the fundraising campaign.)

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About the Author

Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard holds a bachelor's degree in social studies education (1999), a master's degree in history education (2003), a master's degree in education management (2013) and a doctorate in education (2022). He specializes in school-based change management and educational leadership. He is also interested in the 21st century competencies to be developed in education. He is a principal in a public high school and gives conferences on educational leadership, pedagogical approaches, change in schools and the professionalization of teaching. He has participated in educational expeditions in France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Morocco. In September 2014, he published the book "Le changement en milieu scolaire québécois" with Éditions Reynald Goulet and, in 2019, he published a trilogy on the 21st century school with the same publisher. He is a frequent contributor to L'École branchée on educational issues. He is very involved in everything that surrounds the professional development of teachers and principals as well as the integration of ICT in education. In March 2016, he received a CHAPO award from AQUOPS for his overall involvement. He is a recipient of the Régent-Fortin 2022 scholarship awarded by ADERAE for the significant contribution of his doctoral studies to the development of practice and knowledge in educational administration.

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