Schools – chapter 1

 

Schools started yesterday here.  Like most others, I wish summer break had been longer:)  I did, however, noticed a big difference this year.  We have been living in California for the first 6 years of our son’s education.  Start of schools meant a lot of additional work for parents as well.  (a) It meant waking up early in the morning to make not only breakfast, but also lunch.  Lunch in most schools is not that great and of course you have to pay for it.  And since I am a little bit crazy (or maybe lot), I used to make and pack lunch in the morning.  (b) Then the first one week goes into getting school supplies and (c) a bunch of paperwork to fill out every year.  We did get paperwork here yesterday – literally one paper just to confirm we are still the guardians and that the address hasn’t changed.  that’s it!

Did I say I used to cook and send lunch for him everyday last 6 years?  I know even in India it is the same story – parents have to send lunch with the kids.  Contrary to that, schools here provide free lunch. They are always cooked in the school fresh. And they strive to provide balanced diet.  That means milk, bread and salad in addition to a main dish.  And I hear salad is always fresh and appetizing.  If you are not used to eating Finnish food at all, you might feel it a bit bland but it is still tasty.

The third one was school supplies.  In California, teachers try to provide the supplies for anyone who cannot/didn’t bring their own.  I also know of teachers who spend their own money to buy those supplies because school don’t have enough funds.  Quite a few parents like me buy supplies (copier paper, paper towels etc etc) and give them to the class every year to reduce the amount of burden on the teachers.  I remember one of the parents in quite a “good school district” told me she gets an email every year with a list of supplies she should buy for the class or donate the same amount of money for the class.  I am sure it’s not absolutely required but she always felt obligated and her child felt embarrassed if she didn’t.

These are small things but they do make a difference in both kids and parent’s lives.  The major thing that really made me go “Wow” today was the number of field trips kids make here.  I remember from California days, there used to be 2-3 field trips in a year. And they will NOT happen unless required number of parents volunteer to be chaperones.  A few times it came close and I know of classes that had to cancel the field trip due to lack of chaperones (both parents work and can’t take time off etc etc). In India I remember field trips being a very rare thing and totally up to the teacher to make it happen.

Yesterday Manu (my son) went to school and reported in the afternoon that they went to a forest to see if they could find/identify local plants.  They are starting Environmental science this year and had a fun time exploring forest.  Forest in the middle of the city you ask?  I will come to that topic another time. Today they were supposed to go to a swimming beach close to school (that’s the picture above) but they changed their minds (kids and teacher that is) and went to a park to play instead (since it’s only second day of school and all).

We also got an email today from the teacher informing that this month (what’s left of it), they will be going on 3 field trips.  One to a forest, one to a local art museum and the third to a forestry school (for the environmental science unit I am assuming).  The beautiful thing about all these trips is – NO PARENTS are needed.  Just the teacher and kids.  I remember in January, the teacher took all the kids to skiing about half an hour away from school in public bus every week as part of school PE.  I felt amazed and fascinated at the difference in both school systems.  Thought I ought to share this before I forget.

ps: the title says Chapter 1 because I am quite sure this is not the end of topics on school life but for today, this is what’s on my mind.

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As the title suggests, I am an Indian (born and raised) who lived and worked in California, married a Finnish guy and now living in Finland raising our son. Here's my take on living in Finland.

4 thoughts on “Schools – chapter 1

  1. I’ve always been fascinated at the Finnish education system and how it makes so much more sense than the US one. I hope you do more posts on how it’s different and what seems to work better!

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    1. I will go out on a limb and suggest that there is a vast difference in how American kids and Finnish children are raised, which directly impacts education. How did we get from Point A to Point B? Here, in America, we have witnessed across the board differences in children’s behaviors because of many factors, including that so many are not getting the upbringing today that kids got when I was a youngster (40s and 50s). Top of the list is a loss of respect for others. RESPECT is a key component in what is happening in the here and now. Many children today are being reared with the feeling that it is all about them–the me now generation. “I want it! I want it how I want it, and I want it now!” That being said, I have to include that there is a huge difference in the nuclear family after WWII that put women into the workforce, coupled with the introduction of “the pill,” the birth control pill. Women could then choose when they wanted to conceive children. Divorce became socially acceptable; A woman no longer had to stay with an abusive husband, for example. As we slid headlong into the 60s and 70s, attitudes, values and beliefs softened, shifted and changed; more and more women joined the workforce to help support the family because with the increase in post war affluence, increases in the cost of living vs slower increases in wages occurred, and families could not (and still cannot) subsist on one income. In all this change, who’s raising the kids? Are they raising themselves?–perhaps some are. Daycare centers came into being. An uptick in gangs has happened; Gangs have become the nuclear families that working parent kids don’t have. I have only scratched the surface of the list of factors that have changed society’s attitudes, values and beliefs. It’s not a simple 1+1=2 formula. It is an extremely complex amalgam of changes that has put us where we are today: struggling to be able to keep our children in an affordable, forward-thinking education system that will help prepare them for their futures. I don’t have any magic wand or miracle answers. I am a mere observer of life who is struggling to understand the quickly changing world around me and my place in that new world order.

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      1. Da Pritt, Thank you for very insightful comment. Like you said, many social and economic changes happened and happened much faster than ever before… We haven’t had time to recover from the Industrial age as a society and figure out a balance before internet came and threw another wrench into the mix.

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