Tatu Koivisto: The Greatest Challenge For Teachers Is Change
Tatu Koivisto was the chairman of The Union of Upper Secondary Students in Finland in 2016 and was in charge of leading the organization and looking after the interests of students.
The union is for upper secondary students and meant to make daily school life easier. With 50,000 members, it is largest student organization in Finland.
Do you feel that the way we are educating children fully prepares them for the needs of the twenty-first century?
Somewhat, but the education system needs to be reformed. In the future, learning in schools won't mean listening to what the teacher knows. Students will teach one another. For example, they may watch lectures at home and only go to school to ask advice from peers or teachers.
How do you see digitalization in education?
I see it as a value in itself. School and society should be on the same page when it comes to digitalization - if digitalization is part of society, it must become a part of school.
A good question to consider is - how do we make sure that we don't use the same educational app for fifteen consecutive years if the students prefer not to use it? It's important for the teacher to use new applications as part of the teaching process.
What do you think the key challenges for teachers are?
I think the greatest challenge for teachers is change. Change presents a lot of challenges. Suddenly students have cell phones in class and teachers apprehend how these devices could be used in teaching.
Will we be able to use social media to our advantage? What kinds of learning environments should students be taught in? And so on. This is a challenge for teachers that requires patience and additional training.
What are your views on PISA?
Discussions about PISA have been good as we have been able to outline the strengths of the Finnish education system. However, PISA results have also made it clear that there are numerous other skills that Finland is falling behind in. For example, Sweden has surpassed us in some aspects, such as skills in argumenting, performing, and readiness for life at work - things that are needed in the future.
Developing these skills will be important in the future. Now that our main focus has been doing well in PISA, we can possibly steer our focus to other areas of improvement.
How should pupil evaluation and assessment change?
Testing should be encouraging rather than discouraging. Right now our system for evaluation isn't working and students don't feel like they are good at what they are doing.
I have been thinking, should the system be designed so that 50% of students are given an average of eight as a grade and the rest receive a nine or ten (ten being the highest grade in Finnish evaluation). The system would boost those who want to go forward but all the same this system wouldn't bring anyone down.
How can traditional classrooms become inspiring learning environments?
This contains many challenges. Little by little it has been acknowledged that students shouldn't sit still because it doesn't boost learning.
Blood should be flowing during the learning process and students should be able to move around. Maybe the challenge is - how can traditional rows of desks be altered into a more interactive and diverse space with desks of different heights, space accommodating for group projects, etc. When the teaching methods change, the learning environments will have to too.
What is the purpose of school?
The purpose of school is to provide students with life skills.
What are the biggest challenges facing the education system?
Right now the Finnish government has undertaken one of the biggest challenges in the education system - bringing digitalization to schools. It is widely discussed but in reality integrating it into the daily life of schools is problematic. The positive aspect is that teachers have a vast sense of freedom, pedagogically speaking.
What is your favorite memory from your own formal education?
My favorite school memory is probably from secondary school. We played in a band and were given lots of time for band practise. I'm not sure if this was according to the curriculum, we weren't in a class specializing in music.
We played modern music in our band, and one of the members was a substitute teacher of ours. It was the coolest thing at the time and I remember it fondly.
The next 100 years
The next 100 years of Finnish education should... maintain the ability to adapt to change. Renewing the system must be a process that never ends.