In September, Patricia Hipwell and Catherine Black travelled to Finland as part of a Teacher Professional Development Study Tour. The purpose of the trip was to see how Finland has consistently maintained its position near the top of the PISA scale for education.
On day four we visited Ylojarvi, just outside Tempere. Tredu Vocational College has strong links to the local business community and to the vocational university nearby. The quality of the technical resources was incredible, and you wouldn't believe some of the practical Finnish solutions on show at the campus.
Ylojarven houses a campus of the Tampere Vocational College - Tredu. We visited an adult education group during a first aid lesson and watched some automotive students from above. The resources were unbelievable!
This might seem like an odd thing to photograph, but it struck me how little mess was left after the students had finished lunch at all the schools (and the university) we visited. There were no plates, cutlery, glasses or serviettes left on tables, and nothing on the floor. Some teachers in our group surmised that the lack of litter in Finnish schools was due to the provision of lunch by the school. This no doubt contributes, but it doesn't explain the lack of litter in the cities generally. It also doesn't explain the lack of other stuff left behind.
I think the answer is once again in the Finnish mindset, present from early childhood, that we are all part of a whole. Every action we make, Finns are taught, affects the people and the world around us. The children take responsibility for their things. Admittedly, they have had many years by high school to practise, but it was the same with younger students. Further, they put the plates in the right trays, facing the right way. Any parents will know how unusual this level of care is for an adolescent. I began to seriously question my tactics as a parent and as a teacher during my Finnish trip.
Tampere was a beautiful city. We couldn't believe it when we chanced across this store for women with ample bosoms - Patricia of Finland!
We were taken to dinner at a Viking restaurant in Tampere - Restaurant Harald. As you can see, we entered into the spirit of things nicely. The Finnish penchant for taxidermy was well and truly present. This unfortunate stag gave Pat the evil eye for the entire evening. Needless to say, she elected not to have the venison.
Our final school visit was to Tampere Vocational College Tredu - the central vocational high school for 16 - 19-year-olds in Tampere.
We were warmly welcomed into the Tredu Vocational College for upper secondary students. The campus offered a range of courses including hospitality, beauty and dental nursing. Like the other branches of the Tredu vocational school, it has strong links to the local business community and to the vocational university nearby. However, students who study at vocational high school still have the option to attend a general university if they wish to change paths at a later stage.
The quality of the technical resources was incredible. Here you can see Leonie testing some of the hairdressing facilities and Angela getting up close and personal with one of the residents of the first aid lab. The campus also had a cafe (pictured) open to the public, staffed and catered by hospitality students.
Funky Finnish furniture and spaces for students. Thank you Iiris for being such a cooperative model! Moments after this shot was taken of me, I was busted doing what any adolescent would do - hooning around as fast as I could get the wheels to go (and trying to get someone else to get on another chair so we could race each other)!
As well as the standard dining room where all students could have lunch, the vocational college also had a small takeaway shop, selling snacks and local produce for students and visitors. Pat hoped this young woman was not one of the hairdressing students.
Aged care is one of the courses offered at the school, so it includes this little custom-built apartment for the elderly so students can practise their skills in a realistic setting.
Finns aim to keep people living independently at home for as long as possible when they get old, believing this is better for both economics and wellbeing. Assistance is thus generally provided in homes through equipment and visiting care.
One of our group chanced across this when they opened the door, thinking it was a normal fridge and tried to pull out one of the trays. A voice in Finnish admonished them loudly, much to our amusement. The Finnish teacher came over, asked the person much more gently not to touch it please, and explained what it was. It is absolute genius.
Each little tray in the fridge is a meal with the date and time on it. The machine on the top (that looks like a photocopier) is a device to heat the meal. The tray just needs to be slotted into the correct section and a button pressed, and the meal is heated to the appropriate heat for that volume.
Here's the truly cool thing though. If you get the wrong day or time, the fridge tells you! That's what the voice we heard in Finnish had been saying. That way, those who get muddled up and can't remember which day it is or if they've eaten or not, are assisted by their bossy fridge.
I'm not sure the whole thing would keep elderly people as cheerful as the fellow on this brochure, but it is certainly an innovative and efficient way to provide constant nutritious hot meals to aged citizens.
Naturally, ageing Finns still want to go to the sauna, but find it more difficult to access. Here, students can assist the elderly with bathing or the sauna using these wonderful facilities.
Secret Switches: In the school's kitchens, we discovered this sleek idea for removing switches from the workspace). As Anne is demonstrating, you simply press down on one side of the disc and pull up the row of switches.
Practical Solutions Finland-Style
1) How to stop students losing locker keys
2) How to stop people sliding down banisters
3) How to double glaze even when you are in an old building that already has single glazing (try getting the Brits or Aussies to do that!)
Our farewell lunch was at a restaurant called Kajo in Tampere. The food was delicious - the best we've had since being in Finland. It was sad to say goodbye to the friends we'd made on our tour (and to the unrivalled joy of Finnish BREAD).