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The Finnish Experience

 

Earlier this scholastic year, between the 8th and the 15th October, Ms Bernadette Stivala, Head of Early Years, Ms Francesca Diacono, Early Years and Junior Sector Head of Inclusive Practices and Dr Joe Gauci, Head of School, travelled to Finland on an Erasmus+ Seminar and Structured Visit for what effectively was an intensive immersion into the Finnish educational rationale and practice. Finland boasts one the finest educational systems worldwide and the opportunity to better understand and compare notes with the Finnish reality was not one to miss. In addition, they also hugely benefitted from the interaction with other like-minded, forward-thinking educators hailing from most other fellow member European States, some from as far as French Reunion, an island in the Indian Ocean, as from the discussions regarding the different approaches taken to address common issues in different educational contexts and settings.

They had the opportunity to observe schools spanning the Early Years, Junior Sector, Senior Sector as well as post-secondary institutions. Significantly, all of these settings were characterised by a strong sense of student ownership and involvement in the learning process. Students, even in the younger years, are independent learners who are expected to take responsibility for their learning under the guidance of the class or subject teacher. Additionally, they are exposed to as vibrant a learning environment as possible, in order for them to grow in their learning and in their appreciation and understanding of the world around them. This makes for significant, meaningful learning experiences and sound educational and personal growth for students. They were also struck by the generally flexible classroom layouts they saw which allow for different learning approaches.

All were pleased to note that, comparatively speaking, at San Anton School we fare well. Our reporting system in the Early Years is better than current Finnish practice. We also tend to adopt a more inclusive educational approach. Some very solid teaching approaches observed ,reflect the approach we adopt across sectors at San Anton School. In addition, a reassuring number of the teaching strategies we adopt at San Anton, even more so now with the thematic approach all the way up to Grade 4, emulate the student ownership of the learning process experienced in Finland and are intended to instil the independent learner approach witnessed there.

All in all, the week spent in Finland was very fruitful in validating areas of our practice and sowing the seeds for new approaches and understandings that will most certainly be followed up,to enhance our students’ educational experience. The team will certainly continue networking with other educational professionals, inside and outside Malta, in order to continue on the path of improvement and efficacy in education that we have undertaken over the past few years at San Anton School.

 

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