Shared experiences from EU mobility project

All the UK students that had been on the mobility project met back together to discuss our experiences.

Three school visits, went as a group of ten. Recession meant that staff had to use personal contacts to make the visits as teachers weren’t happy to be engaged in extra work. Shown round by the head, more focus on the facilities than the learning. Children take in own books and pens, use blackboards, some projectors, a computer in every classroom. Teachers used a lot of talk, not disruptive behaviour, but not always quiet when teacher spoke. Multilingual teaching and student work in English was very impressive in bilingual schools.

School visits were very quick, saw exemplary selection. Privately funded school for non-Finnish nationals, similar to an FE college. Observed several lessons and discussion with head. Visited primary school, very innovative (not representative!). Lots of costly projects going on, all children given a Nokia phone to use for timetabling. Robot programming for sumo type wrestling, lots of technology. Small class sizes 15-20 children at most. Project work, very independent work, allowed children to work wherever and whenever they want.

Team teaching, 30 ch, 3 teachers – each one, teach one. Each child taught another child – across years and across classes.Teacher training school – two in Helsinki, students are not ‘part’ of the school as employees like we are.

Second primary school they went into was at the students request. More realistic school, saw lesson on working online writing where students were using Facebook or online gaming, but teacher accepted that distraction was part of life and that students needed to learn to cope with it and still get the work done.

We discussion about whether the Finnish culture and approach to life was the real key to the education system. Politics were not involved in the education system and many former teachers are politicians.

English was taught in a very mechanical way, no practice in spoken or oral language. Mostly grammar and written English to pass tests only. Our students went to primary school, the head (manager) had a very ornate room. 40 minute lessons, 10 minute break in between each lesson, lots of student talk in each lesson but students still know what to do. Teachers teach from books written by government, so little or no differentiation, students wrote in the books. Students seemed to work alone without much help, all seemed to be on task. No active learning, teacher led. Teachers were well respected, no need for behaviour management, children stand up when come into the room. Respect came from upbringing, from family expecting them to behave. Lots of hands on, Turkish teachers were shocked that we couldn’t touch the children. There was a uniform for teachers and children in school.

Visited a private primary school, teachers were called by first names, but teaching was very prescribed, working through a text book and teacher led. Children didn’t talk to each other or do group work, teachers didn’t like it this way, but they felt the government had prescribed it to be this way. Timetable was very relaxed, breaks of an hour or longer, in between lessons. Subjects were mainly core, not geography, history, etc.

Public school – children were given a pack of work for the week, chose when and what to study. Some project work, where children did own choice of work on laptops. Interactive whiteboards in every classroom but not much other ICT in progress. Was not compulsory to teach RE, and don’t teach much about other cultures, very shocked by the diversity of the English system.

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