Inside Classrooms: Finland | Lucy Crehan | CleverLands by Lucy Crehan


12 Jan 2017

Inside Classrooms: Finland

Finland is consistently high in the PISA rankings and is often seen as a top performing education system. So what are its teachers doing?

Net teaching time per year – approx 600 hours (OECD ave is 700)

Estimated average class size – 35 (OECD average 22)

Salary (ave/max for age 25-29) – £26,500/47,200 (incl. bonus) (OECD average £25,400/31,200)

Salary: The average gross salary (after tax) of a Singaporean teacher is the highest in the world, as teachers are also entitled to a number of bonuses; some universal, some performance based, some awarded after a number of years service. Base pay varies depending on qualifications on entry (not all have degrees).

Class Sizes: Class sizes are planned on the basis of having 30 students per class in the first two years of primary school, and 40 per class for the rest of primary and secondary. However, this large number isn’t because there is a significantly lower student to teacher ratio than average, but because teachers officially teach for only 15 hours a week.

Pay progression Pay increases yearly with inflation, but most pay progression comes from being promoted to extra positions of responsibility. Promotion depends on a yearly evaluation that covers all aspects of a teacher’s work. There are three tracks teachers can progress along: the teaching track, the leadership track and the specialist track.

A day in the life of a teacher

6.00 Wake up. Half boiled eggs and kaya toast for breakfast. Style hair. Drive to school.

7.20 Morning assembly. I sit with my form while the students sing the national anthem and say the national pledge, and this morning we also have a guest speaker to talk to the lower secondary students about how to handle stress. The kids are asked to write one good thing about themselves on the back of their booklets; all the kids near me write “I am great” and draw lots of smiley faces.

8.00 Golden file time. Today is one of my days with fewer lessons, so I spend the first two periods catching up on my ‘golden file’, containing my schemes of work, data, lesson reflections and behaviour tracking. Every teacher has one of these files, and they are submitted weekly to school leaders to update them on our progress on each lesson.

9.00 Professional Development time. We get together as a department for two hours each week. Today we discuss a new enrichment programme we’re planning for the Sec 1 Express Stream students, and review the ‘O’ level results to learn from them for this year.

11.00 Sec 5 Art lesson (Normal Academic Stream). Students in Singapore are sorted into 5 streams on the basis of their Primary School Leaving Exam (PSLE) scores. Of the three streams that do O-levels, the ‘Special’ and ‘Express’ stream students take them in Sec 4, and the Normal Academic stream take them in Sec 5 (so leave school one year later). Today I’m teaching these Sec 5 students, and am checking on their progress with their ‘O’ Level coursework; they received their question paper mid last last month. Unfortunately, most of them still haven’t taken or printed the research photographs for their observation drawings.

11.45 Sec 1 Art lesson (Express stream). We have some catching up to do to stay on course with the curriculum, as over the Chinese New Year period, lesson time was taken up with musical chairs and eating sweets. In addition to recapping on how to use colour pencils to render a flat section of colour properly, they will be learning about geometric shapes, and using warm and cool colours to complete their next assignment.

9.45 Break. Supervise students who were late to the first lesson while they do the plant test, have a cup of tea and send an email to the principal.

10.00 Biology lesson 8C. Teach the same lesson as I taught to 8B (all groups are mixed ability, so the lesson includes differentiated activities and doesn’t need to be changed much for each class). Fifteen minute break in the middle (this follows almost all 45min sessions).

11.35 Break duty. Have to sort out a disagreement between two girls who’ve fallen out. Refer them to Verso – a peer counselling programme that we use for less serious issues.

11.50 Lunch break. Sit with the other teachers and eat reindeer and mashed potato. Photocopy resources and prepare for the next lesson.

12.15 Biology lesson 9A. Teach about genes and chromosomes. I put them in groups so that the students who pick it up quickly can help those that find it more difficult.

13.40 Mark tests. Realise that a few students will need to retake it. Drink coffee.

14.00 Meeting with special teacher. Discuss a student in my form whose results are poor to see how we can arrange his studies to help him. The special teacher agrees take him out of the lesson for a few sessions to help him catch up with the work.

14.15 Admin. Print information about my students in preparation for the OHR meeting next week (a termly meeting with the principal, school psychologist, special teacher and social worker in which we discuss each student’s learning and needs). Call parents about some students who got into a fight. Respond to emails.

15.00 Meeting with principal. This meeting is to discuss the new materials I’ve bought and the new curriculum I’ve designed. There is a national curriculum, but this is very broad (just a few sentences per subject), so there is a lot of room for teacher input.

15.30 Parents meeting. Met with one of my students and his parents to discuss how he’s doing at school. We meet each family once a year for fifteen minutes at a time that is mutually convenient, although we often see them at other events too, and arrange extra meetings if there are problems that need discussing.

15.50 Go home! I’ll have to do some planning this evening, but I usually try and get most of it done before I leave school so I can spend time with the children.


Editor’s note: This is not a real day in the life of a teacher, but a mixture of a few teachers’ days, with some added notes for clarification! It is more busy than a typical day – teachers often leave school earlier than this.

This article originally appeared on edapt website

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