Finnish Teacher Education and PISA: Some Reflections Eero Ropo

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Finnish Teacher Education and PISA:
Some Reflections
Eero Ropo
Professor of Education
School of Education
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Development of Finnish Teacher Education
• Primary teachers
• Primary teacher education started in 1863 at the Jyväskylä Teacher
Seminar (currently University of Jyväskylä)
• Seminars were merged to universities in 1971
• Primary teacher education became a MA degree in 1979
• Secondary teachers
• Were educated at the universities since late 1800 until 1974
• Pedagogical training was provided by the state owned Normal Schools
after the degree during one academic year - until 1974
• Normal schools merged to universities in 1974
• Secondary teacher education was reformed in 1979 and Teachers’
Pedagogical Studies became a minor subject to MA and MSc degrees
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Finnish Teacher Education in European Context
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Teacher education is not legislated by the EU. However, EU gives recommendations
for developing common basis for all education
Some member states (e.g. Cyprus, Estonia, Slovenia, Germany and UK) make
centralized decisions (ministry or other government bodies) on standards for teacher
education
In most EU countries (e.g. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Hungary,
Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania,
Slovakia, Spain, Sweden) competence requirements are outlined at national level, but
are adapted or further defined at a lower level by the teacher education institutions
In few other Member States (e.g. Finland, Czech Republic, Greece, and Malta) the
competence requirements are only set by teacher education institutions.
Those countries, where the decision is made at the national level, tend to have more
explicit and detailed descriptions of the competences that teachers are required to
possess.
Finnish teacher education is not based on lists of competences
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Basic Requirements for Becoming a Teacher
• Master’s degree including or in addition to:
• Subject matter studies (min 60 ECTS ) in each subject that one
aims to teach at school
• Credit for subject matter studies given by the university
subject departments
• In primary teacher education subject matter is defined as
“multidisciplinary studies” given by Schools or Faculties of
Education
• Teacher’s Pedagogical Studies (60 ECTS), including teacher
practice
• Studies are organized and credit given by Faculties or
Schools of Education
• Teacher practice (minimum15 ECTS) takes mainly place at
University Practice Schools
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Graduating New Teachers Have Typically
• Studied 5-6 years (Primary teachers) or 6-7 years (Secondary
teachers) full or part-time
• Worked as substitute teachers in different schools during their
studies
• On average 340-360 ECTS in their Master’s degree (minimun 300)
• At least two, but in some cases three subjects (e.g. Math and
Science) that they are qualified to teach in secondary education
(min 60 ECTS)
• Primary teachers can also qualify to teach at secondary level
by studying the subjects at the university subject departments
(e.g. Math, English, Arts etc.)
•  Dual qualifications
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Contents of Teacher Education Programs
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In Finland teacher education courses and contents of the program are decided by the
universities
However, Ministry of Education and different stakeholders offer recommendations
about the contents of the programs (e.g. inclusive education, ICT competences,
multicultural education etc.)
Contents of Master programs is based on multiple decision made by subject
departments, faculties of education, and practice schools
There are a few principles Finnish teacher education follows:
• Strong emphasis on knowing the subject matters to be taught
• Good theoretical knowledge on education, teaching and curriculum, and student
learning
• As extensive teacher practice as possible within the time restrictions
Individual growth to teacher identity and teacher career (reflection of experiences,
portfolios evaluation, individual mentoring in the practice schools)
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PISA Results and Finland
• PISA = Program for International Student Assessment by OECD
• Overall, Finland has been among the three best countries in reading,
mathematics and science results in 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2009 PISA
studies
• It is difficult to say what exactly is the reason for good performance in
Finnish schools
• Nature of Finnish language?
• Length of school year or amount of practice are not the reasons
• At least Finnish students learn to answer the type of questions
PISA includes
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Suggested Reasons for PISA Success
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Respect of Teachers in the society
Nature of Finnish home education
Overall Quality of Teachers and Teacher Education
• Only less than 10 percent of applicants are accepted into primary teacher
education programs
• Secondary teacher students are selected from students enrolled already at the
university
• Emphasis on acquiring pedagogically relevant scientific knowledge
• Professional, individual mentoring for students in the university practice schools
Scientific Basis of Teacher Education Programs
• Theory as the basis for program (curriculum & learning theory, identity and
autobiography)
• Every student involved in research (Master’s Thesis)
• Portfolio method as the way of evaluation and to enhance individual reflection
Educational culture in the schools
• Trust to teachers’ work (no inspectors)
• No regular national testing (teachers design and administer their own exams)
• School-based curricula based on national curriculum framework; teachers
participate in designing the curriculum
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• Teacher autonomy and responsibility is emphasized in the
system
• Developing teacher identity is one of the main focuses in the
teacher education
•  Teachers focus more on educating students towards the
educational goals than maximizing their test performance
• ”No child left behind”
• Inclusion is the main strategy in education; municipalities invest
resources in helping student who have learning difficulties
• Still we know that
• Boys are not doing as well as girls in the school
• About 5 to 8 percent of primary school graduates do not continue
their studies in secondary education after mandated 9 years
• There are social problems and problems in student well-being at
school
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Quality of Teachers and Schools
• We know that
• “the quality of an education system cannot exceed the
quality of its teachers” and that “the only way to improve
outcomes is to improve instruction” (Barber and
Mourshed, 2007)
• teacher quality is significantly and positively correlated
with pupil attainment (e.g. Darling Hammond et al.,
2005; Greenwald, Hedges and Laine, 1996; Rockoff,
2004);
• There are positive relations between in-service teacher
training and student achievement (Angrist and Lavy,
2001; Bressoux,1996).
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Thank you!
[email protected]

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