NowTV from HK recently made a documentary comparing the approach of HK education with that of Finnish education, they filmed in both HK and Finland. They interviewed, Teachers, Parents and Students, to try and find the main differences in the two approaches to education at a public level. The documentary was aired last week in HK, to a local audience in Cantonese, the documentary raised a lot of talk on Facebook, mainly from local parents.
I spoke with LaiPing who was the producer and lead interviewer in the documentary to ask after having spent time talking to teachers, parents and students in both countries, what were her key findings, below are Pings thoughts in italics:
1) Competition vs collaboration
Finnish people try to eliminate the competition in learning and teaching environment. From this starting point, they can focus on their job. In Hong Kong, the pressure from the measurement and comparison made both students, teachers and school stay in a level that fighting for survival. They don't feel safe. So all things they do is not just for the purpose of education but to survive in this society.
Finnish people are more critical to what they are doing. They are more reflective. They will ask for change if they think what they are doing is meaningless. But in a cruel, high competition environment in Hong Kong, no one or very few people dare to change.
From my perspective, I would say it is impossible to copy and paste the Finnish education system approach into HK or any part of Asia for that matter. The culture of the education system in Finalnd is based on collaboration, as everyone is working in and looking to improve the one system. In HK and Asia in general schools compete with each other for students, the criteria for choice in most cases for parents relates to examination success. To some degree this still holds true in private schools to.
2) Teaching's training
Teaching training school attracts the most outstanding and motivated young people and provide"s them a systematic and all-rounded training. Based on this, Finnish people have a great trust in their teachers. Teachers enjoy great autonomy in their teaching. It gives them space to be creative in the classroom. In Hong Kong, the trust between parents, schools and government is so weak. Government doesn't trust schools and use a lot of measurement to monitor schools. Schools then put so much stress to the teachers. Parents complain a lot.
This is where the role of culture takes over, and the consequences of collaboration vs competition within the education system.
3) The flexibility
Teaching in Finland is based on the interest and ability of every children. They put so much emphasis on pre-school learning. They will give special help to the students in need. They listen to the children to understand what they like, how they learn. They have choice in their learning. In Hong Kong, all students study similar things and they do not have so much space to choose. Getting a good result is the goal for Hong Kong students but not finding the path they like to be.
In Finland, the focus is on student centred learning, and learning how to learn, a way that works for you. when you know how to learn the what to learn is less stressful.
4) Less is More vs More is More
Finnish people believe that less sometimes is more. e.g. Homework, school hours, examinations. They focus on "did they really learn?" Hong Kong people believes that more is more. Some may think learning is about work but not fun.
Learning in fun when you're in the "flow", meaning you are engaged in what you are doing, you're not feeling anxious or bored, but your attention is held by what you and doing, and time passes faster than you realised.
Some of the documentary video was shot at Rainbow school in HK, when Dr. Kristinna of Espoo, Minna Kukkonen and myself visited the school.
In the documentary, Dr.Kristiina was asked to give her views on the approach taken in HK vs the approach taken in Finalnd based on her short observations of schools in action in HK.
As Polkuni, we provided as much assistance to nowTV as we could, both in HK and Helsinki, here's Pasi and his son Arni, talking about how home and school are linked in Finland, and what this means.
In terms of who wins ?, HK or Finalnd, there is no winner, because they are in effectively playing different games, and the game they each play is intrinsically linked to the culture and values, and as these are not the same its hard to compare. But a system that is not focused on the outcome of continuous standardised testing has to be more benefical to creating a learning environment, where the goal is learning how to learn, and trying to find what really interests you and then put your focus there. No one knows the skills that we need in the next 5 years, never mind 25 years, so the skill we do need is learning how to learn those new skills, whatever they may be.