School’s out – Day 116/139

Today was the last day of school here in Finland. Again thousands of young people graduated from their schools. Most notable of these graduations is the high school (lukio) graduation.

Graduating high school means a big party.

I was invited to one of these parties held by my wife’s relative. More interesting than the party itself was the atmosphere of success. The 19-year old girl who graduated was a straight-A student. She was obviously up for a scholarship for her success. Here’s basically what happened:

  1. She worked her ass off for 13 years in school to get to this point.
  2. She still doesn’t know why she’s doing it.
  3. But luckily the school does, they awarded her with a scholarship worth 85 € for a job well done.

Apart from Harry Potter, who has ever been sorry that the school term ends?

In Finland we have the compulsory education (oppivelvollisuus) sometimes called “koulupakko” as in “forced school”. Learning new things, basically the most fascinating thing out there, is turned it to a compulsory duty.

On top of that the school system has crappy incentives. It’s not like 85 € was in any balance with the amount of work and dedication a person puts into their studying in order to get there. The only real incentive for doing well in school is that you on average get a better job.

I will argue that such a distant incentive is not motivating for almost anyone. In order for people to do well in school they must adopt a personal incentive on the meta-level. You have to learn to like what you’ve been told – not to learn more about whatever you like.


5 responses to “School’s out – Day 116/139

  1. The incentives system of the then if-culture that we currently live in is in it self totally perverted – by nature humans are curious. A great thing and the basis of lifelong learning.

    Unfortunately we have at school, work (and home) learned the eccentric motivational model that has short term results, but is devastating in the long run. Dan Pink wrote a great book on the subject called Drive and for the short version watch his TEDx Nasa presentation

    How school teaches is also a part of the problem, most of the time we are taught by facts and copy ways to solve a problem. While for all of those 13 years an A-level student has not been forced to solve a problem or create one to solve. A way of force fed problem solving by a set standard – something that is as rare in the working life as workbook solutions. Again for more check this TEDx video by Dan Myer :

    All in all congratulations to everyone who graduated and hope the 13 hasn’t killed the curious mind..

  2. Appologize for the bad English and Typos 😉 Sunday morning…

    • No worries, Pekka. I even corrected some of your typos. 🙂

      It seems TED has really had some great material about learning/education over the years! Great presentation on incentives there by Dan Pink.

  3. “In Finland we have the compulsory education (oppivelvollisuus) sometimes called “koulupakko” as in “forced school”.”

    Just to clarify: we have a compulsory education system only in the sense that everyone has to prove that they’ve learned certain basic things based on the state’s curriculum but there’s no forced school. If parents don’t want their kids to go to school, it’s OK as long as the kids learn to read, write etc. in some other way. I think this is very important because if you don’t like the school system, you’re not forced to make your child a part of it, but no kid can be left without basic skills and some amount of common knowledge either. At the moment home schooling is extremely rare and parents generally think quite highly of schools.

    There are a lot of traditions and money issues that prevent more freedom from taking place in schools. The curriculum in itself is actually mostly just awesome.

    • True enough, thank you Stippe for that correction. Homeschooling kids in Finland is indeed rare, I think I saw the number 300 children somewhere in Wikipedia.

      Finland is already showing signs of parents voting with their kids to show disrespect to certain schools. Due to the lack of viable alternatives with the curriculum, the finger can only be pointed to the school itself as the cause for “bad” education.

      But as you said, issues are strongly financial. Offering a viable alternative to a whole collection of free alternatives is borderline impossible.

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