The reform of vocational education in Finland changes the procedures in secondary vocational institutions. The reform received contradictory feedback from the public, but Suomen Diakoniaopisto and Vocational College Live sees the reform namely as a possibility to serve students and employers better. Vere is partnering with them to implement successful changes.
Vocational education is in turmoil. In 2017 funding was reduced, in 2018 the reform of vocational education was implemented along with a new Vocational Education and Training Act. The reduction of contact teaching has been criticized and vocational institutions have almost been impeached for neglecting their students.
“In public discussion the reform has been made the scapegoat for many things, although the reasons for the problems lies in cuts in funding. Contact teaching has not disappeared, but nowadays students are also learning working life skills e.g. teamwork, taking responsibility, being self-directed and using digital tools. The amount of individual guiding has increased” Juha-Petri Niiranen, headmaster of Suomen Diakoniaopisto, informs.
you cannot rush an adolescent's personal growth
Suomen Diakoniaopisto was established in 2017 as the result of merging three diaconal education institutions. Half of the students are applying directly from primary education, while the other half are career shifters. Especially career shifters are benefited by the reform, because previous working experience is credited as part of the education, which shortens the length of the education.
“One should not forget the school’s upbringing goals. A 16-year-old is not mature enough to be self-directed to the same length as an adult. We ought to pay more attention to this, because you cannot rush an adolescent’s personal growth."
You can start learning a profession at anytime
Vocational College Live has also positive experiences of the reform. Live (former Keskuspuiston ammattiopisto) is the largest special vocational school and development center of special needs education in the Helsinki metropolitan area.
According to Liisa Metsola, Development director at Live, the implementation of the reform has mainly been successful and that there is major excitement towards all things new.
“It is especially positive to have closer cooperation with working life and the opportunity for continuous application. One no longer needs to wait a whole year for school to start. This is a novelty, traditionally schools have primarily been concerned with structures, not the students’ needs or the requirements from working life” Metsola argues.
Practices from companies in the change of operational culture
Ability to change and courage to renew one’s own practices is required from staff, just like at any other workplace. The same applies for leadership. Schools must retrieve operational models outside their own field, precisely like the corporate world. In many companies change and constant learning are a part of everyday life.
“Corporates as well as schools have their own, specific ways of operation, which suits their community. This steers action like an invisible force and forms a culture.” Jussi Pullola, Vere’s co-founder, explains.
Some of these habits are good, others are complicating or even disabling cooperation. Often issues are related to openness and the flow of information.
“One concrete example is registers of corporate clients. When information from individual teachers are combined, everyone benefits. When client information is classified on selected criteria, we can identify and find the best on-the-job learning positions for students in a fast and efficient manner, and even make automated recommendations. This is how we can free teachers’ time for the most important, teaching.” Pullola states.
Tangible changes are supported by the correct tools, but the baseline are the needs of teachers and students.
“Tools help to implement operational culture change, but they cannot be the steering factor. Systems are not useful, if they do not have motivated users and are not truly helping teachers in their work. Everything stems from people.” Pullola concludes.
Even in vocational education the clients’ needs are the determinant
Both Niiranen and Metsola considers the premises of the reform as excellent, and believe that the drawbacks will be corrected, if decisionmakers would have time to carefully listen to feedback.
“The beauty of Finnish education lies in that teachers can choose for themselves which is the best way to teach specific students. The teacher can perform independent work, decisions and to bear responsibility. In many countries there are strict rules and schools are visited by inspectors, but in Finland we can trust the professionality and motivation of the staff” Metsola argues.
According to Metsola, the reform gives good chances for her to develop in her teaching.
“Finally there is a chance to highlight the most important part, the customers, be it students or employers – the ones we are guaranteeing skills and professionality for.” Niiranen states.
Development director / Vocational College Live
Headmaster / Suomen Diakoniaopisto
Co-founder / Vere Oy
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