Home » Pre-Trip » Learning Finnish Lessons – Questions to Start!

Learning Finnish Lessons – Questions to Start!

By: Mike Johanek

We’re very much looking forward to visiting with our colleagues in Finland, and many thanks to everyone’s efforts in putting this trip together.  Special thanks to Joe Mazza, a social media maven and patient teacher to the rest of us!

We look to learn a great deal about the Finnish system, especially myself as one who brings no particular expertise in the matter.   I find myself admiring a good deal about how the Finnish schools have been portrayed, and hope to get a better sense of how the various pieces actually fit together on the ground.

As a start, I hope we’ll find out more about the following:

  1. What is the nature of the school’s relationship with its local community, including other family-facing agencies and the general public? What does this look like in practice, in terms of working collaborations across these agencies?  What do school-community relations look like independent of agency ties?  Links to local churches, community organizations, etc.?
  2. How do Finnish educators address disparities of academic achievement that exist by SES levels?   Is there a particular challenge in underperformance among boys?  How would the dropout situation be characterized at the upper secondary level (their last three years before university-level studies)?
  3. How do Finnish educators understand and approach leadership development in relation to their schools and education system?  Who serves in leadership roles, how are they identified, how prepared, how supported, and what sort of career patterns do they have?
  4. How much does Finland spend educating its students?  What portion of this is managed by the schools, and what portion from other budgets?  From the overall social safety net?  What leeway do leaders have at various levels of the system in terms of allocating resources per priorities they set?
  5. To what sort of testing are Finnish students exposed?  I understand that little happens in elementary, but that university-bound students are frequently tested, though with locally-constructed exams.  How does testing look across the system for students?
  6. What sort of choices of schooling are available to Finnish students?  There are some “independent” schools, apparently, and magnet-type programs.  How do these function?  Who attends what sorts of schools/programs?  How do they differ?
  7. Given the more developed vocational track alongside the university-directed studies in Finnish schools, do some students start down one and end up in the other?  What sort of options do students have to switch, and when is that possible?
  8. What is the typical pattern of student experiences in the arts, particularly music?

I’m certain a whole series of other questions will arise, and we welcome the input of those following our trip!  What else should we be asking?


  1. What are students’ attitudes about school are during, and after, their schooling experience?

    • brandonwiley says:

      Good question, Jesse. I’ll actually be examining the “student voice” aspect of the trip and sharing my conversations with students throughout the week. To me, getting their perspective on the system is key. Keep the good questions coming!

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