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The Voice of the Finnish Parent

2nd Grade Mom, FINLAND

2nd Grade Mom, FINLAND

By Joe Mazza

“I deeply trust the schools here in Finland.” 2nd Grade Parent, Koulumestari Elementary

One of the areas I’ve noticed written about the least in Finland’s education system is how schools engage families. As someone who is constantly looking through this lens, I was anxious to get to Helsinki to look for answers from students, teachers, leaders AND actual parents sending their children to school.
The videos embedded below (apologize for video quality) is a two-part interview with a 2nd grade parent at an elementary school we visited this week. It’s important to note, that like reflections on all of our team’s posts, our visit to Finnish schools was very exploratory in nature. Our takeaways come strictly from what we saw, heard and experienced walking around the schools for a week in Finland.
Part 1/2
Part 2/2

5 Things that have me thinking…

  • Trust: “We have it pretty easy,” said the parent.  Trust is embedded throughout. It is ubiquitous. Student, teachers, parents, leaders, policy. You do what you need to support what’s best for kids without all the red tape. The teachers spend a great deal of time with the students, even eating lunch with them each day. The parent went on to say, “When my husband and I trust the teachers, my children trust the teachers”.  Schools are safe. Many schools are KiVa Schools, but generally students were very well-behaved, and bullying of any form was not tolerated. I came away feeling like I was leaving a warm and caring family’s house.

  • Home-School Communications: Varied and not one size fits all. WILMA and other varied communications are offered to families to support face to face relationships. WILMA is much like many student information systems (SIS) back in the US. Parents can log in, see performance, attendance, behavior, etc.

  • Parent-Teacher Relationship: What kind of people they are. What do they think about education, pedagogy, our children. They are very qualified. Proud and know their profession very well. I can always contact them, and email them.

  • Overall Goals: It’s so important that parents and teachers get together regularly and build relationships with each other. We learned of things found in the US like parent nights, parent-teacher conferences, volunteer opportunities. The mom we interviewed shared her hopes for her child’s future: 1) Finds his way of living. 2) Finds his career and what he likes. She hopes he goes to the University and graduates. 3) The most important thing is that he trusts himself and knows what is best for him.

  • Homework: The elementary classes we observed received homework almost everyday mainly in the form of writing and math. However, there were no more than 15 minutes expected of homework. The 8th grade calculus class we observed ended with two words, “no homework.”  In another school, an upper secondary class spent 10 minutes of the 75 answering student questions on homework problems, so we know that it is given. This further illustrates the fact that there are a range of approaches with much of what goes on in schools here in Finland, but little homework seems to be the default.

In the end, one of the coolest things about this inquiry trip is that as more native Finns followed the #pennfinn13 hashtag, they chimed in with their own thoughts, thus expanding the depth of our visit’s perspective.  One of the Finnish teachers tweeting us from another region of the country shared how she used a Facebook page and blogs to provide a snapshot of the week ahead for the learners, then post captured learning moments/accomplishments later. We’re so thankful that Finnish teacher Hanna Graeffe shared her Facebook page for us here. You can follow Hanna at @hannagrrr on Twitter. Through this medium, we also learned that aside from being a rock star Finnish teacher, she is also a successful singer.

Below are the tweeted takeaways relating to family engagement from Hannah and the rest of the Twitterverse during our visits to Finnish schools.

[View the story “Finnish Family Engagement – Tweeted Takeaways” on Storify]


  1. […] Joe Mazza is back from a visit to schools in Finland, and has written a great post — including video interviews with a parent — titled The Voice of the Finnish Parent. […]

  2. […] in education. This I learned from the words and actions of Finnish students, teachers and parents (see previous Voice of Finnish Parent post). Below is a picture of a quiet teacher workroom at SYK designed to allow teachers to work, […]

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