Thursday, 6 February 2014

Parallels in the Education Systems of Jamaica and Finland

The relatively small Nordic country of Finland is usually at the top of international education rankings. However, this pride of place did not happen by chance. Over twenty years ago a radical decision was undertaken by the government of Finland to overhaul and transform their education system. Since then the government of Finland has maintained a culture of success regarding educational outcomes for their students. While the Jamaica culture and society is quite different from that of Finland, there are parallels in both societies and no doubt we could learn from them by examining the educational model they pursued.
Finland has a population of 5.4 million people which makes it a relatively small state. Jamaica’s population is approximately 2.8 million. Free education is provided in Finland from kindergarten to the tertiary level of the education system; however this is not the situation in Jamaica.
Finland is considered by educational theorists to have one of the best if not the best education systems in the world. Finland is unique in that it holds teachers in very high esteem. Teachers in Finland must possess a master’s degree and pass a rigorous and competitive application process. Only teachers from the top 10 per cent of their graduating class are recruited to be trained as teachers. In 2010, nearly 7000 applicants competed for 660 positions in primary school preparation programme in the eight universities that educate teachers in Finland.
This is truly remarkable. Just imagine the transformation such a policy would have on the Jamaican society.
Of course the Jamaican society face numerous challenges especially of a financial nature, however, if we could as a society identity education as a national project and then allocate the necessary resources towards improving the education system its very likely that the other issues we face could be addressed.  
As educators we need to move in the direction of empowering our students to think critically instead of encouraging them solely to memorize facts and dates in order to pass an examination.  Regurgitating information is not tantamount to having a quality education.
All stake holders involved must and should be consulted and engaged in the process and their opinions given due consideration. If we hope to truly revolutionize Jamaica we must provide quality education for all our students.

Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com