Mention Finland, and Israelis associate it with cold and high-quality education. Many Israelis have visited Finland for the purpose of understanding how its successful education system works. Among them is Professor Orit Hazzan, Department Head of Education in Science and Technology at Technion - Institute of Technology. Hazzan discussed her views as we met her at the Finnish Embassy in Tel Aviv. What are the eye-opening observations of the Finnish education system from an Israeli point of view? What could mutually beneficial cooperation be like?
Professor Hazzan was impressed by the high education requirements of the Finnish teachers. Teachers complete studies in pedagogy and education in addition to subjects they would be teaching. Ulla Hakanen, Embassy's Deputy Head of Mission, noted that in Finland teaching is a prestigious profession aspired by many.
One of Hazzan's observations was that the whole education system is based on trust. Trust encourages everyone, both students and teachers, to assume responsibility, she noted.
The key value of Finnish education policy is equity, the idea that every single child should have the same opportunities to learn. A good basic education is considered an essential human right.
Hazzan was surprised that in Finland, the right to education is written in the law. The law guarantees every child high-standard education no matter of the location or socioeconomic background.
In addition, Hazzan acknowledged that Finnish teachers have skills to identify not only the talented but also the weaker students. In Hazzan's eyes, this also reflects the idea of equity. Early identification of problems assures that struggling students are allocated special resources. Half of the 16-year-olds leaving comprehensive school have received some sort of special or personalized education.
Finland has progressed from being a poor, agrarian country to a modern society with high education levels and world-class innovation environment. Sounds familiar to Israel? During the winds of change, Finland managed to make a reform in the whole system. Hopefully we can learn from the Finnish success story, says Prof. Hazzan.
Of course, Finland is quite a homogeneous country. Copy-paste does not work in education exports, cultural translation is a necessity. But ideas can be shared.
In Israel, there have been demands of enhancing the vocational education system. The Finnish model of two parallel and equal systems could provide food for thought. Half of the comprensive school graduates continue to high school, half to vocational school. However, the system is flexible, would they change their mind later. In addition, degree from a University of Applied Sciences is as acknowledged as a University degree. Some cooperation between the countries has started already.
What could Finland learn from Israel in turn? Ulla Hakanen noted that Finland, that striving to enhance its innovation environment, could for example look into how Israel, as the Start-Up Nation, leads in subjects such as engineering and computer science. Hakanen pointed out that it would be delighting to see these subjects drawing as many female students in Finland as they do in Israel.
Both countries have a lot to learn and a lot to give. And in Israel, there also interest in cooperation.
Brochures on Finnish education / Finnish National Board of Education.
Read more about Orit Hazzan's notions on the Finnish education here.
Pasi Sahlberg's praised book Finnish Lessons tells the story of the educational change in Finland will be published in Hebrew in 2015.