Berwyn C.A.R.E.S. Learns From Finland

Movie ScreeningBy Jonathan Salamanca

Finland’s education system offers hope to some seeking reform in Berwyn’s school districts.

Berwyn C.A.R.E.S and Prairie Oak School recently hosted a screening of the movie Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System followed by a discussion.  C.A.R.E.S’s President Robert Pauly spoke about Berwyn’s divided community and new hopes for change.

“As a community we need to be unified to achieve the goals that we’re trying to achieve, and Berwyn C.A.R.E.S. can help in that regard, whether you’re from North Berwyn or South Berwyn,” he said.

In the 1970s Finland’s educational system ranked low, according to Stanford scholar, Linda Darling-Hammond. But nation-wide changes in social support for students, standardized testing, and teaching certifications have brought Finland to rank among the top in international rankings.

According to Pauly, Berwyn’s elementary school district 98 and 100 rank in the 40 percentile and its high school ranks even lower — in the 15 percentile — in the state.

“Berwyn is in much of the same position that Finland was 40 years ago, when they decided to take a different look at the way they were educating their children,” he said.

Some of the educational steps and reforms that the film pointed out are not all tangible, as a parent commented, but the idea is to spread the word and motivate the professionals and parent to become active in the education system.

At the screening Pauly urged parents to join Berwyn C.A.R.E.S. or at least become a Facebook follower or committee member.  Pauly stressed the importance of active participation in the group.

These are just a few of the changes Finland has made since the 1970s:

  • Students addressing of teachers on a first name basis to promote familiarity and comfort
  • Students remaining in the same class group with the same teacher for several years to individualize and build on student-teacher relationships so that each student receives the appropriate attention
  • Requiring teachers to have a master’s degree to teach

The film discusses the teacher’s certification in depth, stating how the profession in Finland is viewed a profession equivalent to law or medicine. According to the film more applicants apply than can be accepted. Only 10 percent of applicants pull through final certifications.

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