Reclaimed – “Special Education in Finland”

August 20, 2012 Off By JR
Today we had our introduction to special education in Finland. The instructor this morning talked about PISA, again. However as I think I’ve mentioned before it was helpful to have the perspectives from many instructors. Some interesting comparisons he drew were between medicine and education. He compared PISA to an epidemiological study, which I though made a lot of sense, and no one else really makes that connection. Ultimately though his perspective was that, “the truth cannot be told of any education system.” Components of it can be studied but the system is far too complex to truly understand. It reminds me of something George Siemens mentioned in an interview with Rick Schwier on comparing ‘complex’ and ‘complicated’. Siemens explanation was that a complicated object can be taken apart and each component understood, like a car’s alernator. Each component is discrete and understandible in the micro and macro levels. Complex on the other hand would be more like a weather system, we can identify some components, but moving from micro to macro and back is incredibly difficult. In this was I would say education systems are complex, not complicated.

It is interesting to consider places to compare Finland to. In the UK a classist system is still in place where the rich can go to private schools (although its a poor comparison for the multicultural reason as well), maybe Ireland is better, or Alberta (of course Canada as a whole has many education systems), the same applies to the US, maybe Austria but they are catholic not lutherine so that can affect the culture. Interestingly Switzerland is doing very well as well but for some reason they are being ignored. Ultimately most statisticians would throw Finland out as an outlier.

Our instructor then talked about special education as a means for developing tools that enable learners with specific constraints on their abilities to learn. In this way special education allows learners to overcome constraints. One massive tool that was created through this is brail (it has been around so long even I forgot to look at brail in this light.)
A quick exerp from my notes today:
two kinds of spec ed.
part-time spec ed (large scale): study in classrooms, spec teacher participates as co-teacher, or engages student in regular class aside during the lesson. No legal decision of disability. About 10% of teachers are special teachers. more than 20% of students get some kind of special education (extra support). mainly class or subject teachers that go back for one year of extra education to be a part time spec ed teacher.
special class teachers: have the right to teach all subjects, and class size is max 10 (usually 8). increasing number of students in this stream. reason is unknown.
Also about 30% of students will have some type of special education and about 10% of the funding for education is allocated towards this.
Finally I loved the example our instructor gave of marks vs learning. Marks are for the system not the learning. He talked about how skateboarders practice and practice and practice and practice and eat and practice until they are satisfied with their mastery. Too many coincidences between DETEF and ETAD802, as we talked about skateboarders and motivation in 802 as well. And we talked about motivation in the start of DETEF. So many connections!



In the afternoon we continued our discussions of special ed and received our assignments for our school tour on Wednesday. I am excited to see another school.
Tonight I decided I must go see some more of the World Design Capital and it was the perfect opportunity as HSS did not have a specific social event planned (although they had suggestions, and I attended one of them).



Kalasatama Skate Park is where I ended up. You may be asking, ‘what’s so great about a skatepark’ and granted Helsinki has a few skateparkts. This one is unique. The skater community has legal possession of the space and is building the park themselves. This is completely a grassroots movement for the park. 



We spent some time there and then went to the movie picnik. There we watched Calamari Union, unfortunately there were no English subtitles, but so little talking and my friend translated bits. I also had the opportunity to impress her by catching the occassional words or ideas based on the little Finnish I know (I am Canadian and speak more Finnish than French…odd I know).