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teaching in scandinavia

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by snoozyhead, Nov 29, 2005.

  1. Obviously mank wants to make the point that he thinks the Finnish school system is **** and there is no way to make him think otherwise. So be it then.

    From the sounds of it the Swedish system is very similar to the Finnish one. When considered for university admission you get points from your grades, entrance examination and relevant work experience (3 years minimum I think). The amount of points you need to get into a particular programme depends on the demand. So for a slightly less popular course it might be enough if you get good points either from the entrance exam or your grades. For a very popular one (medicine, biology), you need good points from both entrance exam and grades. For example, I could have gone to study physics without an entrance exam because I got good grades from my advance maths and science exams. And in a similar way to Sweden, there is a "quota" for people who want to do a university degree but through an unconventional route, after a vocational qualification and work experience for example.

    So I'm not denying that these two students in question could not have been admitted into a university without passing their IB. All I'm saying is that they must have got a good result from their entrance exam instead! From the university's point of view as long as you have the knowledge needed they will let you in. Whether you have proved this in your school exams or the entrance exam it doesn't matter!

    As for the quality of the average Master's thesis I don't know since I didn't do my degree in Finland. I have friends who have got a Master's in biology and their work has been rather extensive, similar to the requirements for a UK Masters I would say. I have no experience from social sciences so I can't comment on that.
  2. funkymonkey

    funkymonkey New commenter

    Its the same system in Norway. It works well here, many people have degrees here but the most popular courses can take years of extra study after compulsory school, some courses like medisne require two to three years of university for people to get enough points to get in.
  3. Littlemissfinland

    Fair enough. Like you, I can only assume that the 2 students concerned blitzed the entrance exam. However, If I was a admissions officer I would still have doubts over the motivation and the study skills of the two students concerned. Why did they fail their Diploma, if they were bright enough to pass the entrance exam?

    Incidently, I don't think the Finnish system is ****! There are several benefits.

    1. Reduced contact time for teachers = more time for lesson prep = better lessons?
    2. No pastoral system = Finnish kids have to take responsibility = they grow up being more mature.
    3. The Finnish system is less variable. The gap between a "bad " school and a "good" school in Finland is a lot smaller than it is in the UK. In fact Finns love to claim that "bad" schools don't exist in Finland! As a result the "average" level of attainment might be higher in Finland. However, the deviation around the UK "average" is a lot greater. Better than average British beats beter than average Finnish.

    However, what annoys me is how much the Finns love to brag (about most things!). In this case about how much better their education system is compared to everyone else's (based solely on PISA). There's a complete lack of any critical evaluation. Finns think that there system is perfect. No one is allowed to criticise it, especially a foreigner!

    On a personal level I've been pretty shocked by what an average 18 year old Finn can produce(OK,I did teach in some pretty good places in the UK). The girls at the UK private girls school that I used to work at were more impressive at the age of 14.

    The emphasis in Finland is on "open access" and "inclusivity". Anyone can apply for a course, and once you're on it seems to be impossible to get kicked off. Result: everyone gets a qualification.

    Finland's education system is probably less elitist than the UK's; at least at Master's degree level. A greater proportion of students in Finland go onto study a "Master's" than in Britain. However, I suspect that in order to create the required up-take and accessibility academic standards in Finland have to be sacrificed. This might explain why the two students who failed their IB Diploma were still accepted to start a "Master's Degree" at one of Finland's most prestigious universities.
  4. I agree with you mank, I find the bragging about the Finnish school system rather annoying as well. There is always debate whether the all-round-policy of inclusion (which might bring up the average) fails the really good students. And Finland is a rather socialist country in other respects as well, the exact system might not work at all in another country with different values and traditions.

    I also think that the Master's degree has suffered an inflation since it is the norm. There are a lot of jokes around about the Finnish job market. "Wanted: Under 30-year-old sales manager with minimum of 15 years experience and a Master's degree..."

    I think they are also now limiting what has been referred to as "academic freedom" i.e. being able to be a university student for 10 years without graduating.

    Saying that, I still think academic standards are pretty high and it is relatively hard to get into a university. Another common reason for failing the finnish A-level exam is the compulsoty Swedish. I know a few guys who were brilliant scientists and got top grades from physics and maths but almost failed their exams due to being bad at languages. I know you should be able to pull yourself together to at least pass Swedish but it does happen. I don't know if this is the same for the IB but if you don't pass all the compulsory subjects you won't get the qualification, no matter how good you are in the other subjects. In a way the british A-level is better in this respect; you can really concentrate on the subjects that you are interested in.

    Anyway, I rest my case. :)
  5. Tigger1962

    Tigger1962 New commenter

    Sorry Mank - not sure that I'm understanding the point that you are making when you say:
    "On a personal level I've been pretty shocked by what an average 18 year old Finn can produce(OK,I did teach in some pretty good places in the UK). The girls at the UK private girls school that I used to work at were more impressive at the age of 14"

    Are you comparing what they produce in English - normally the students' third language - or do you teach in Finnish?

  6. Do you live in Finland?

    If you did you would realise that language isn't really an issue. From what I've seen English is Finland's 3rd official language. Certainly, on a day to day basis you'll see twice as much English as you would Swedish. Prime time, most of the TV in Finland is in English, avec Finnish sub-titles. Food labels, billboard adverts, even some roadsigns!- The English language is all around you in Finland; half the time I'm sure that I don't fully notice or appreciate the extent of English language creep in Finland! Just one silly example, last Saturday on the bus with my Son I over heard a Finnish Dad explaining the meaning of an illuminated "Stop" sign on the bus we were travelling on in a mixture of Finnish and English.

    My kid goes to an English speaking nursery. There's a massive waiting list to get in, but he's the only kid with a British parent. Some Finns clearly think that its essential for their kids to learn English from the age of 3!

    It's a shame really. The Finns seem to be intent on destroying their own language and culture. The IB, which is now followed in over 20 lukios in Finland, is generously funded by the Finnish taxpayer, that's just one of many examples.

    I could also go on about the impacts of Canal+, the Internet, and American/English contemporary music.

    Historically, its all happened before of course; just look at Britain's history. Celtic, Latin, old norse etc have all been official languages in Britain. I'm convinced that the Finnish language will be dead in 100 years time if current trends continue. It's a classic example of the invisible hand of the market. The Finns won't be able to complain about it either!

    No, language is NOT an issue.
  7. So you are seriously saying that teenagers that speak English as their second language can be directly compared to native speakers? Sounds like an IQ test from the 16th century... After all, most kids who are now in lukio would have started English in the third grade (10 years old). Sure it is a trend to put your kids into an English speaking daycare (in big cities especially) and be in a class where English is taught from age 7 but hardly the norm.

    Even if English is everywhere it still doesn't mean all kids are completely fluent, not even close. My mum was just saying she has some 13-year-olds in her class that didn't know the word "house" or "home". So to most average kids who don't go to English-speaking daycares, learning English still requires active studying and doesn't come naturally like you suggest. Sure they learn a lot of words from MTV at the age of 7 but I doubt they would be able to have a conversation with a British 7-year-old.

    So I think there is some truth to your comment, a lot of kids are very good at English but I think you took it a bit OTT. Being truly bilingual and learning English as a second language is not the same thing.
  8. Hej Stu2630,

    Your chances of working in Denmark at the best International School (CIS) are bleak, very bleak. The school seeks teachers with MYP/IB experience, a good track record, MA or PhD and ideally links with the IBO in some form (moderator, examiner, trainer etc. Other top international school candidates are preferred and the school's IB grades are very high. Turnover is low and they get a lot of high quality applicants. Science is a little easier but barely. The property boom is over although I made a lot of cash and then moved on.

    I would find it tough to return for many reasons but the potential for boredom is massive. It is a depressive and cold country at times and Danes are superficially friendly but provincial. They are also quite racist and can be rude. The country is ideal for young attractive teachers who want to go out a lot and score (the very sexy smart minded chicks are tough) or drink but in the long term it isn't viable unless you marry a Dane (many do and regret it).

    Other options are there if you are Catholic (Rygaards, GCSE only) and there are three or four poorer, cheaper schools in the capital (MYP, GCSE). Other Danish schools are fussy and go for Danes.

    The truth is the tax system would take your money if they knew you had it and you would get taxed on any pension as well as a salary. Living and property costs are high although property loans aren't as high as the UK. Most things cost a lot more and travel is the same as London. Denmark is not a place to save and the winters and weather is mostly poor. The language is very tough to speak and the outdoor opportunities are very limited. All in all a great country but only for a short stay. Sweden is pleasant and Norway harsher in climate.

    Go south, very south or middle Europe.Scandinavia is a better option for professionals who are in shortage areas and teacher never will be.

    Sorry to be harsh but I wouldn't hope for too much as I know the country very well indeed and have many teacher contacts there. Go for a long stay in the summer (JJA)- that should be enough. Leave in September. BUT- some do succeed, a few.


  9. Prob true about the exageration

    But, what about the issue of Finnish. Is it a language in long-term decline? It would be a great shame. How often do you visit these days?
  10. Bonicus

    Thanks for the advice! It's nice to hear from someone who's been there and done it.

    I'm a bit luckier than most who enquire on here because I've got quite a few things on my side. I have my MA in English and I'm well on with my PhD, and the obligatory Cert. Ed. I've got plenty of teaching experience, albeit mainly teaching law. I've been to Denmark fifteen times (last count), so I've seen plenty of it for two and three week stays, mainly in the summer. I'm a fairly fluent Danish speaker and can read it without difficulty, but I'd want to brush up on my vocabulary and grammar to pass an exam. I have several long-standing Danish friends, but I agree with you that a lot of Danes are at best parochial and at worst xenophobic.

    I could afford to live there on my pension alone, so any teaching would put a bit of extra jam on the bread and keep the old grey cells active. I also don't mind too much where in the country I live, or who I work for, what level I teach or even how much they pay me. I'm certainly not looking for a second career - just something to do. I know the taxes are high, but the social benefits are also good - something that is becoming increasingly important for someone my age (I'll be 50 when I retire from the cops).

    If you have any useful addresses or contacts in DK with regard either to employment prospects, or financial/investment/taxation advice, I would be extremely grateful if you would let me know.

  11. The Finnish language is certainly changing but whether it is changing at any greater rate than it has before I don't know. We have a wealth of words adopted from Swedish from when that was the popular language so I guess the same thing is now happening with English. Language evolves naturally and I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. O Tempora! O Mores! Right? I don't think Finnish will disappear completely, there are a lot of people out there including youngsters who still relish their mothertongue. But I guess we have to wait and see, I don't have a crystal ball.

    And I usually visit 3-4 times a year. In the year just gone I've only been once because we're living in California at the mo. But will be returning to the UK this spring and it is a lot cheaper and quicker to visit from there. I'm form the deep west where we have a reputation of being ill tempered. ;)
  12. OK Stu,

    Tax advice www.skat.dk

    If you want to teach english Berlitz or RUC in Roskilde as they have english programs and have been complaining about poor support in this area.

    Talk to Peter Welby at www.cis-edu.dk and check their jobs- they have one part-time. They do have substitute work.

    Look at


    to see what is going on.



    Also look in The Copenhagen Post for ads which often come up.

    An apartment in Copenhagen will be 6000 DKr+bills.

    At the moment it is tight but there is work about. Go to KISS to work on your Danish.

    Good luck,


  13. Bonicus

    Many thanks. I can see that the links and information you have provided will be invaluable.

  14. One thing to take into account when thinking about working in Finland is RACISM.

    Anything or anyone foreign is viewed with great suspicion. I can't see the situation ever improving either. Most of the Finns that I know live in a fantasy world of denial. Thy find it impossible to accept that anything in Finland is nothing less than perfect.

    It can get a bit wearing after a while

  15. Same in Denmark mank but the majority are OK. Muslims have a rotten time and are hammered in the press. It is a tricky one but the debate is improving as it moves towards behaviour and respect as opposed to faith. In private there is little improvement but jobs are available to those who wish to work.

    Denmark is very good indeed for female teachers and families.

  16. "Denmark is very good indeed for female teachers and families."

    I'd better start the hormone course and book myself in for surgery, then.

  17. Racism in Norway is an interesting case.

    Norway likes to be involved in peace making throughout the world eg Sri Lanka, and the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held in Norway each year.

    It has a significant number of immigrants and refugees, though most Norwegians wouldn't want an immigrant leaving next to them. There is a specific expression for this paradoxical behaviour.

    I will try and find an article on this from Aftenposten (the broadsheet daily in Norway).
  18. Norwegian Duality

    Norway has a reputation for the utmost political correctness, but more than every other Norwegian would prefer not to have immigrants as neighbors.
    Norwegians favor integration but preferably not too close to home.

    The report "Future Living" from Prognosesenteret (The Prognosis Center), an analytical firm for the construction and property market, asked 2,000 Norwegians how they lived and how they wanted to live in the future.

    Two questions asked for an assessment on whether the respondent was most at home in multicultural circles, and if immigrants should residentially integrated as well as possible with ethnic Norwegians.

    Over half agreed in maximum integration but only two out of ten felt they would be at home in such surroundings.

    Trend analyst and social anthropologist Gunn-Helen Øye at the Prognosis Center said the result was notable but not surprising, and reflects the "Norwegian duality" - the combination of political correctness with a preference for this to happen elsewhere.

    The study revealed that people under 30 are most likely to say they thrive in a multicultural setting, with 25 agreeing and 40 percent neutral. The next age group up, 30-39, are most skeptical, with 38 percent disagreeing with such a thought.

    Norway's western region was most receptive to living in an ethnic mix, but with only 23 percent saying this, the southern region was most opposed (45 percent).

    Those with the lowest income were most positive to living in multicultural neighborhoods, and the enthusiasm fell as earnings rose.
  19. And an article to show how difficult it can be to find a job outside of international schools:

    Danilo Costamagna speaks Norwegian along with three other languages, is educated as an engineer and willing to take on just about any job except janitorial work. But after 300 applications and 299 rejections, the young Italian feels forced to leave Norway, and his Norwegian sweetheart.

    Marte Syvertsen and Danilo Costamagna are being forced to live apart, because Costamagna can't find a job in Norway despite hundreds of applications, fleuncy in four languages and a degree in engineering.

    Other foreigners have also related their frustration in finding jobs in Norway. He calls it a matter of pride, and patience running out. The 26-year-old specialist in telecommunications even spent a year-and-a-half studying at one of Norway's most prestigious universities, NTNU in Trondheim, and he still can't find work in a country where oil wealth otherwise is keeping the economy strong and unemployment low. At least for ethnic Norwegians.

    Costamagna is another example of how difficult it can be for foreigners to get a job in Norway. His case also suggests an underlying fear of foreigners in Norway, and a reluctance on the part of employers to hire non-Norwegians, even when they have all their credentials in place.

    Costamagna himself is convinced that his non-Norwegian name has kept him from even being called in for interviews. Solveig Finboe of the employment agency Manpower in Trondheim suspects he's right.

    "Many companies have plans to increase their staffing with immigrants, but they don't do it," Finboe told Aftenposten.no. "I think they have good intentions, but in the end their insecurity about (foreign) culture and competence will have negative results for the foreign applicant.

    "I think it's good for the Norwegian community to be challenged by a case like Danilo's," she added. His case is far from unique, given response from non-Norwegian readers that Aftenposten has had earlier.

    Costamagna, who has automatic working permission throughout Europe, has sought jobs all over Norway, but now says he'll probably need to leave his girlfriend, who's a medical student in Trondheim, to accept a position in information technology that he's been offered at a bank in Luxembourg. "I need both the experience and the money," he said.

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