SAIN ennen joulua Eduardolta kirjeen:
" Martti, I am doing a translation of my book published last year in NY, about Finnish school education into Spanish. But I am including a new chapter with an update about the pandemic. Will you be so kind as to write a paragraph about your own opinion about how do you see Finnish school education after the shocking experience? And how you see the Finnish education to change in the future because of that? It can be as short as you want!!"
TOTTA kai vastasin. Laitan ajatukseni tähän talteen.
The finnish schools will start their 3rd covid-19- termin in next week.
The first termin started 18h of last march. All the schools from primary level to the universities closed their doors. At the comprehensive level only the pupils from the grades 1-2 and the pupils that needed special support got lessons at the school. The period of distance learning lasted two months. Then the government made a desicion to open 14h of May the schools for two weeks´ time, and then the summer vacation started.
The second termin started in the middle of August and it lasted to the christmas. The government changed the strategy. Now the comprehensive and upper secondary schools were open, if there were no students or members of the staff who had had an infection. If so, the class or a bigger part of the school was closed and those who had had a contact with the sick person, were ordered to take a one or two week long quarantine.
Today all the students and teachers are on christmas vacation. The official plan is to continue in the same way as we did in the autumn. But who knows?
The researchers and the officials have collected data, how well did we succeed and what were the crucial problems. I also collected unofficially experiments and feelings of the teachers in the end of April. I published them in my blog in english. The link is in the end of this letter.
How did we succeed in arranging education during the Covid-19 pandemic in the spring?
We think that the finnish teachers in common made a miracle. Although they and their headmasters had only a few days´ time to renew all the plans, the school continued at home. All students got to home all materials needed including pads - and school-lunches. The teachers took a big digital jump.
Most of the students felt great stress and need of help. Still they were quite satisfied with the guidance they got from the teachers during the distance learning period. Some of them told that they learned even better at home, especially those, that felt they were mobbed at school.
But not all. There was maybe a 10 % big group of kids that did not succeed. The schools did not get contact to some kids and their families at all.
Many families had difficulties to take care of their jobs and children at the same time. All the parents could not help their children with their school tasks. Some of the parents were very tired. Some were also very angry. The social workers informed, that some children felt very badly at their homes. We found out how important the school is for the kids, if there are problems at home, mainly at poor or immigrated families. That is one main reason why the government opened the schools in May. Also the doctors gave support to the idea.
Most of the teachers were afraid of Covid 19, and they were very relieved when the schools were closed. From the same reason, the Trade Union of the teachers was agains the opening of the schools in May.
Most of the students enjoyed the opening- and most of the families. Only a few families kept their child at home.
For the teachers these two weeks were very hard, because they had to take care at the same time of lessons and the safety rules: distance between the kids, washing the hands, cleaning the instruments a.s.o. No visitors, no common celebrations…They were also ordered to find out pupils that had gotten lacks in their learning results during the distance-learning period. Teachers were also ordered not to meet each others lively.
There were also teachers, that belonged themselves in a risk-group. Many of them stayed at home - without salaries.
The officials found out that some kid had had serious problems with their studies. All students were not independent enough to learn alone. So the government sent a massive amount of money to the municipalities to give support to these kids during the Autumn-termin.
How did we succeed in arranging education during the Covid-19 pandemic in the Autumn?
When the autumn-termin began, the school-law was changed so, that it was possible - if needed- to devide the classes at school so, that one part of the school studied at home and another part at school for some weeks, and then they changed the turn. The National Board of Education and other officials gave again as in the spring rules how to ensure the safety.
All the schools started normally. Soon some pupils or teachers got infection, and the new system was addapted. Many teachers moved their lessons outside the school building.
The termin was again very stressing for the teachers. Especially in the junior high schools were the teenagers did not follow the safety rules. During the termin he schoolstaff was ordered to use masks.
The termin ended as planned in the Christmas week. The researchers are collecting now information. But even now we can say, that the finnish school and its staff succeeded greatly in the fight wih this pandemy. The former President of Finland, Mrs. Tarja Halonen thanked officially the teachers of their excellent work.
What must we do next?
The pandemy is not over. There is also a possibility that the old normal will never come back, as our President Sauli Niinistö has said. So we have to prepare seriously to create and handle new ways of teaching, learning and evaluating learning. We must create more easier ICT-programs than teams, meet and zoom are.
We must create a brand new pedagogy to substitute the real interaction and presence. The students and the teachers need more training in ICT.
The schools must make clear plans, how to work, who is in charge of taking daily contact to the students, how to inform parents that don´t speak finnish…
We must find also new ways to support families, that have problems.
Some municipalities hope that they can make the quality of the education better by making co-operation with other municipalities and offer more subjects to learn via ICT,
Here is the link about the pieces of advice and warnings of the finnish teachers.