Day 2 of the Québec-Finland Educational Expedition: Confidence is the key!

A surprising statement from a seasoned Finnish school principal: "The Finnish school system is entirely based on trust".

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ATTENTION! The English translation is automated - Errors (sometimes hilarious!) can creep in! ;)

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

We had the opportunity to visit the school Taidelukio, an artistic high school, which highlights the visual arts, music, interior design and architecture. Essentially, the school is attended by 310 students in grades 10 to 12, who are between 15 and 19 years old. They are supervised by about fifty teachers who share the subjects taught. A third of the courses are related to the arts and the rest are formed by the compulsory courses: Finnish, English, humanities, mathematics and, also, other courses such as philosophy, psychology and a third language like , for example, French.

What fascinates this school are two things that are completely different here, in Quebec or elsewhere in North America and in many European countries: the children are very often left to their own devices. Students have plenty of free time during the day and they can hang out at school or home if they wish. It is not uncommon to see them alone or in small groups in a room to work on school projects. School is accessible to them at all times.

You read correctly. Students can come to school anytime: early in the morning, late at night, on weekends. The obvious question was asked: Do you have staff at the school all this time? The response was rather unexpected: “No! Students who wish can ask me for the key. They can come whenever they want. They are in their house "! Do the students have the key to the school? I never expected to hear that in my professional life. I couldn't believe my ears! Incredulous, I asked random students to show me the key, which they hastened to do quickly and with great pride.

The director, Reima Härkönenlaughed at me. He patiently explained to me that the Finnish school system is entirely based on trust: “I have to trust the students if I want them to trust me”. Ditto for our teachers. The bond of trust must be solid. By giving them the key to the school, students realize how much the school belongs to them just as it belongs to the staff. They take responsibility for the latter and they develop a real feeling of belonging. This feeling of trust and commitment is mutual. Indeed, when the school needs a helping hand, the pupils are there and give back a hundredfold what they benefit from.

However, trust is not always acquired in the Finnish school system. Model, host and author Saimi Hoyer owns thePunkaharju Hotel, the oldest hotel establishment in Finland, built under the orders of Tsar Nicholas I in 1845. She is a proud ambassador of Punkaharju and its bucolic nature. It is difficult to understand why the children of the small town, well nested on a peninsula surrounded by the immense Saimaa lake, should see their school close so that they can be directed to Savonlinna, located 35 kilometers to the northwest. She did not hesitate to use her public notoriety to oppose this move and the municipality gave up the project ten years ago to even build a new primary school well integrated with the geographic particularities of the region. . Students can take advantage of the surrounding forest and the lake for their school activities. She still campaigns today so that the secondary school can also in turn be rebuilt in the same style as the primary school. The older ones are housed in a school which, according to Hoyer, clashes with the beauty of the surroundings in addition to being located next to an old disused bar and a factory manufacturing plywood. She asks candidly, even cynically: "I would like to know who had this brilliant idea to build a school in the only ugly corner of Punkaharju"!

In short, even if confidence is at the heart of the Finnish education system, the fact remains that everything is not always rosy either!

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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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