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This blog is about my Comenius experience in Finland

Pressures to extend school day

News about educationPosted by Sylvie Hendrickx Mon, November 28, 2011 19:06:26

A comparison in weekly classroom hours .

The trade union representing teachers here in Finland, the OAJ, is calling for longer school days as a part of an upcoming reform in the national curriculum.

Even though Finnish children spend well below the OECD national average of hours in class, academic performance is among the best in the world.

A new national curriculum for elementary schools is currently being formulated behind closed doors at the Ministry of Education. The group of civil servants working on reforms have not shown the plans even to the OAJ, the union that represents teaching professionals.

"If this were a broadly-based, publicly-open working group, it would be possible to provide comments as the work progresses. As it is, we will not be able to take a position before it is finalized, and then it's in the hands of the politicians," remarks OAJ chair Olli Luukkainen.

A curriculum reform proposed last year was withdrawn after a clash over the expansion of elective subjects in elementary schools. That plan was vocally opposed by the OAJ, the Centre Party and the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities.

According to what the OAJ has been able to find out, the curriculum proposal now expected in February will not contain any major reforms. However, it does think it probably that the new curriculum will increase the number of classroom hours.

"We have the impression that it's being considered in a positive light. We think there should be the funds available. The number of school hours in Finland is below the OECD average," notes Olli Luukkainen.

He adds the view that more teaching time in the classroom could lead to better academic performance.


Longer days, better results?

Finnish schoolchildren have among the shortest school days in any of the OECD countries. The number of hours spent in the classroom in Finland is just over 22 a week; in South Korea it is over 33.

Professor Jouni Välijärvi of the University of Jyväskylä, who coordinates the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in Finland, says that longer days elsewhere is not a good reason to extend school days here.

"Indeed, PISA results show that this number of hours enables excellent results. It should be carefully considered if this would be an efficient method. It would also mean considerable expense," points out Professor Välijärvi.

The long school day of South Korean public school pupils often continues with extra lessons in private schools, while Finnish pupils have more free time. Both rank at the top of the PISA ratings.

In the view of Professor Jouni Välijärvi, instead of longer days in the classroom, Finland should invest in more special education and after-school club activities.

"There seems to be something in the air in other developed countries urging an increase in the systematic education of small children. I am not convinced that this is wise. It could produce exactly the opposite results intended."

From: yle.fi, dd 28/11/2011