|Photo from yle.fi|
Commentary of an Academic
(Copyright @ 2019 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).
As Helsinki embarks on a new chapter to firmly stand as the capital of World Design, owning a long history and strong heritage in design, Finland is a Scandinavian nation that is praised all over the world for its intellectual reforms that has completely revolutionized the educational system of a generation.
Finland is rated among the planet Earth’s best education by investing on best practices on holistic teaching environment and learning systems as it strives for equality over excellence. It is admirable how a progressive and Nokia maker welfare nation, almost the size of the Philippines, has no private universities, making waves about its gold standard on public schools, subsidized through a fat budget for Finnish inventive and innovative education that created the internet browser, SMS (texting), sauna, angry birds, and Linux to name a few.
Despite a tiny demography surrounded by thousands of lakes with a productive over five million Finns and home to Santa Claus in wintery Lapland, Finland keeps an eye on stress-free education system that discourages standardized tests, although Finnish students culled with option, are given only one standardized test called the National Matriculation Examination to be manually checked by competent teachers, getting rid of exams automatically checked by computers, during their primary and secondary schooling, to evenly encourage cooperation over competition for the gifted and average students that seem to appear a win-win inclusive solution, unlike the rote memorization and stressful myopic vision of Confucian education practiced by our East Asian neighbors.
Finland’s novel and successful high literacy rate can be attributed to its individualized basis grading system set by competent teachers. Finns value on free time and more time for play that would excite Filipino pupils and students as their recess time. This European Union member country merits teachers treated like professors highlighting teaching as a noble profession. With a minimum of master’s degree for all teachers, it is not so surprising that this Nordic welfare state admits the select few teachers since collegiate programs is free for all, so as master and doctoral programs. Responsibility over accountability is conscientiously played over by Finn teachers, being highly revered for their utmost contribution in nation-building, endowed with a vocation of molding the minds of their country’s future generation.
The Philippines’ affinity with Finland robustly cemented when the Finnish beauty queen Armi Kuusela, the first ever Miss Universe, gave up her crown and married a Filipino Columbia University alumnus and businessman Virgilio Hilario. The beautiful couple wed in Tokyo and later on resided in Manila as they were blessed with five children and six grandkids. However, Filipino-Finnish diplomatic relations between the two arctic and tropical countries were established in July 1955 intensifying economic and trade partnerships. Today, Finland houses a small Filipino community with continuous rounds of bilateral consultations.
In light with the new mixed Filipina Miss Universe Catriona Gray’s advocacy of providing free education to children from impoverished families, highlighting one of her clever answers in the recent international pageant, the state of Philippine education, whether in private or public, concerns all of us. Philippine universities rank low in global university rankings undermining several criteria on student-to-faculty ratio, citations per faculty on research and development, and poor learning infrastructures, summing up a lacking quality education. Although most Filipinos enrol in mandatory free education in public schools for primary and secondary schooling, Philippine ‘public schools’ seems lethargic to quantity over quality education, where privileged families and OFW parents send their children to private or exclusive schools to ensure proper education for their children.
The tuition-free education in all state universities in the Philippines has received severe shortcomings in spite an aim to foster social development. Gifted students in premiere specialized science and arts high schools, cadets in military or naval and police academies, some of them defer paying back good services to the country after the Philippine government had subsidized their tuition fees and stipends as scholars, in lieu for brain drain or out of frustration to serve the nation that once inspired them to excel.
Filipinos should love and value teachers by placing them to their rightful place in Philippine society. Their enabling force to nurture and teach students should be supplemented with competence-building programs to enhance their gift for teaching. Filipinos should inculcate among our kids that teaching is a noble profession and the future of our state depends on them. Reforms in Philippine educational system must also be pursued by selecting the best and the brightest teachers to teach in public schools lessening inequality between the tugging wars of private versus public schools.
The Finnish education model teaches us a simple lesson. We need full cooperation rather than competition to progress intellectually and socially as it promotes equity and equality. The hierarchy of rankings dismisses the vision of excellence as one university is higher over the other when the good intent is for all citizens to become fully literate and numeric. Lastly, it is prestigious to be schooled in public schools. After all, if we look at current global university rankings, Oxford and Cambridge universities in the United Kingdom remain the world’s top universities even if both are proudly public universities.