Education: What, why and how? Part One

[edit#mikko: Inkan linkki vie hänen omalle FB sivulleen, näet sen vain jos olet kaveri, samalla korjasin linkit]

To those, who can read Finnish; above is the link to my facebook page discussion on education. It serves as an intoduction to my further thougts on that subject. I would be extremely glad to continue discussion on education or other cultural matters here on this blogue (or anywhere else).

Shortly:                   and

are two books published after PISA results continuously had proved the good results of the Finnish education system. They specially praise teacher’s professional qualification and the humanity of our school system (and I highly recommend any teacher and politician or in any country to read them as common knowledge on today’s education systems).

But one big question still remains in my mind:  What is the main purpose of education?


Because. In Ripley’s book the ultimate goal seems to be the competence – or commercial competitiveness of a nation. In her brilliantly written book Ripley thoroughly analyzes the Finnish, South Corean, Polish and  American educational systems. She (rougly simplified) finds the South Corean education to be very competitively qualified, but at the same time inhumane rigorous  – contradictory to the American, which emphasizes sports and music, at expense of mathematics. Finnish system then seems to succeed in both, humanism and logical thinking.

But in the end Ripley says, that if she had to choose between South Corean and American, she would choose the former. So, does this means the choise between commercial competitiveness and humanism?


That leads me to the question that Mirva Kuusela and Ville Huuki already asked on the facebook discussion: What does PISA mesure? And is the ultimate goal of education the same as that? Are the goal and the purpose the same thing, and should they be?

Well, in my opinion, PISA mainly measures the function of the left hemisphere (which of course can’t fully function without the right). And of course I’m happy to be representing the world’s leader in that matter. I truly believe in human being’s capacity in logical thinking, in the meaning of its ability and results.

I also think that our education systems should aim on completely other kind of goals, not commercial competitiveness – as the Finnish National Curriculum already lists: “…support pupils’ growth into humanity and into ethically responsible membership of society and to provide them with knowledge and skills needed in life…”

And then, again, I believe in the intentional development of the right hemisphere, in forms of art, sports, music, dance, drama etc., and also in ways that are new in Western Culture but not in the East – meditation, mindfullnes, intuition, etc.

My educational ideology is based on my view, which is very ecological, but also aims to human beings’ holistic wellbeing. Therefore I just can’t sign Ripley’s book before hearing the definition of her ideology. As much as her book praises the Finnish system, I’d like the motivation to be elsewhere, not in capitalism (which is completely in the opposite direction than mine).


Because I think these are the main questions we need to keep asking ourselves (within this planet, nation, or just the reflection of the teachers’ bathroom mirror): What is the ultimate purpose of education? Why do we even need it (or should not be compulsory, as Ville suggested)? And, if we then educate, what is the ideological goal? And this is something that needs to be told openly, before claiming one nation/school/individual better or worse from others.


This was part One. To be continued soon (as soon as I find a way to edit my videos in order to hide faces: If anybody can help me with that, please do so).

All photos taken in the events / lessos of my school; Myllypuron yläaste. Photos taken by me and Minna Turunen. Thanks to Happi Media Education Center, Harakka island Environmental School, Firefolk Ihmesirkus and Helsinki Education Department Taito Competition.

11 thoughts on “Education: What, why and how? Part One

  1. Hei Inka,
    Sun FB linkki ei toimi (saattaa johtua yksityisyysasetuksista tms), samoin finlex-linkki vie sivulle jossa sanotaan ettei sistaltoa loydy.

    Your question about what PISA measures is very valid, and beautifully leads to the discussion about the reasons for (public) education. The answer is two-fold: we need the (public) education to ensure the cultural progression to the next generation and to have productive members for the society in the future. Of course this looks different in different countries and cultures. Or at least it should look different!

    Looking forward to your next posting!

    • Kiitos paljon, en olis huomannut! Yritin korjata linkit. Fb:n pitäisi kyllä olla julkinen, mutta joskus nuo fb-linkit kai vain “vanhenee”. Kerro vain, heti, jos huomaat lisää korjattavaa!

      Thank you, Nina! This whole subject is so wide, that eventually it leads us both to political (and religious, etc) ideologies as well as deeply personal views of life. But I think, even if we never can fully agree on everything, we need discussion in order to draw compomises that most of us can agree with.

      • Miehänkorjasin. Eitarvikiittää. Otanhan minä jalustan.

      • I wonder if there is an educational sphere, or pedagogical/andragogical paradigm, that expands beyond religious and political values. While inquired about their wishes, most parents want for their kids to have “good education” and “good life”, yet those qualities are very hard to define. In classrooms everywhere the school culture clashes with students home cultures and values – and we still have many hidden expectations in curricula.

        My current thought is that student-centered education that caters for the needs of each individual student in the class/school is the step towards the right direction – and thus I talk and write about learning facilitation and promote the growth mindset for life-long learning. Of course this all must be aligned with the local (sub) culture, and this is why it should have a unique look in each school/district/state/country – even while being based on the same principles of intrinsic values of learning and education.

        I agree completely with the need for negotiating the means and meanings for learning.

  2. Inka, I think you are right that if we are to make changes in education, we have to return to our first principles. I think most of us became teachers because we want to improve the lives of our students and our communities (not just their test scores.) As I see it, the biggest difference between Finnish and US schools lies in poverty rates. Many US teachers believe that if we can improve a child’s test scores, we can give that child a chance at a better job and out of poverty. But this hasn’t been working so well for us, as we see from our ever-increasing wealth gap. So, I agree that we have to return to our underlying values to find where we are going wrong.

  3. I like to think that commercial competitiveness and humanism aren’t mutually exclusive – in the long term. Let’s imagine a society in which kids are raised and trained strictly for commercial competitiviness of the nation, forgetting about the other aspects of personality. I’d guess that sooner or later that kind of society would face major problems because of new generations rebelling against the system, or far too many workers and families suffering from mental problems and whatnot. So, I guess that in order to be a productive, sustainable and efficient, a society also has to pay attention to peoples holistic well-being, and take that into account in schooling as well. Thus phrased, “commercial competitiviness in short-term” and “commercial competitiviness in the long-term” might look very different. (To me it seems that we as a mankind haven’t been very good at long-term planning – a lot of decisions seem to be made based on quick profit in short term.)

  4. Thank you so much for your thoughtful thoughts!

    It’s cool to communicate with people who are involved with education and know what we’re talking about. Then there are also those, who critisize from the outside. Sometimes they have a point and we should listen to them, but so often also people talk only from their personal experiences and generalize them to the whole society – that’s what often happens when talking about education – as they say, everyone is an expert. But it’s good to read your opinions who have given things a second thought.

    I’m sorry about the facebook-link. It’s really not so important (and it’s in Finnish anyway), but I’ll keep it there as a curiosity for those who’re interested.

  5. Just came from Washington State. I met many good teachers there. I/we were wondering why you don’t have vocational schools after middle school.
    Why is high school so important? It is too academic for too many students.

    • Mikko,
      That is what I am exploring in my Fulbright project in the UK. I am visiting vocational training colleges, apprenticeships and other options for students who struggle academically. Someday, I would also like to visit Finland to see their vocational programs. Our system in the US offers only one high school diploma and the requirements continue to become more and more academic. There are vocational classes in our high schools, but all students must still have a core academic course load that is often very disconnected from their career goals.

  6. Pingback: What is the purpose of education? | Cognitioneducation

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