Focus on Schools Helps Finns Build a Showcase Nation

HELSINKI -- A foreigner asking to visit a school in Finland this spring got an unexpected reply from the Helsinki City Education Department: Our schools are overwhelmed by visitors; do you have to visit just now?

In fact, the Finns, who have long felt neglected by the rest of the world, are delighted to show off their schools. But they do have a logistical problem. Foreign educators in droves want to visit Finnish schools for the simple reason that they are so good -- very likely the best on Earth.

Superb schools symbolize the modern transformation of Finland, a poor and agrarian nation half a century ago, and today one of the world's most prosperous, modern and adaptable countries.





Preschool students at the Arabia Comprehensive School celebrate the birthday of a classmate. (Lucian Perkins - The Washington Post)
Audio Slideshow: Pictures & Sound From a Helsinki School

Finland finishes first in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams that test 15-year-olds in all of the world's industrial democracies. Finland also finishes at or near the top in many global comparisons of economic competitiveness: Internet usage, environmental practices and more. Finland, where the modern cell phone was largely invented, has more cell phones per capita than any other nation -- nearly 85 per 100 citizens.

Graphic: Education First -- How Finland Compares

As recently as the 1970s, Finland required that children attend school for just six years and the education system here was nothing special. But new laws supported by substantial government spending created, in barely 20 years, a system that graduates nearly every young person from vocational or high school, and sends nearly half of them on to higher education. At every level, the schooling is rigorous, and free.

"The key," said Pekka Himanen, 31, a renowned scholar with a PhD in philosophy (earned at age 20) who is a kind of guru of information-age Finland, "isn't how much is invested, it's the people. The high quality of Finnish education depends on the high quality of Finnish teachers. You need to have a college-level degree to run a kindergarten. You need a master's-level degree to teach at a primary school. Many of the best students want to be teachers. This is linked to the fact that we really believe we live in an information age, so it is respected to be in such a key information profession as teaching."


The principal of the Arabia Comprehensive School, Kaisu Karkkainen, 49, has the same answer when asked the reasons for Finland's educational accomplishments. "Three reasons," she said over a tasty lunch of chicken, rice and green salad in her school's cafeteria: "Teachers, teachers and teachers." Then she grinned an un-Finnish grin at one of her favorites, English teacher Riitta Severinkangas, 47, who has been teaching for 16 years.

A visit to Severinkangas's eighth-grade class demonstrates that her students can all read and speak in English, a language that has virtually nothing in common with the Finns' obtuse and complex native tongue.

"The teachers did it" is pretty much the universal answer to questions about Finland's educational successes. Seppo Heikkinen, 45, a producer of educational programs for the Finnish Broadcasting Co. and a member of the governing board of the Arabia school, credits "the professional level of the teachers," who are "highly motivated."

Read more about our visit to a Finnish school and an examination of the country's education system: Achievements Reflect High Status Given to Vocation of Teaching


-- Robert G. Kaiser

By washingtonpost.com |  May 24, 2005; 1:05 AM ET  | Category:  Education
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I am an American expat living in Finland while my wife finishes her teaching degree. (Actually used to work for the Post). You should investigate the problems of immigrants and being educated. While Finland is, overall a nice place, there is a current of hostility towards immigrants thats not addressed very much. If you don't speak the language "perfectly" you don't get a job and sometimes even if you do speak the language, those jobs go to Finns. There are immigrants here that have advanced degrees who have not worked for years. And now the complaint is that they need to hire foreign workers for the older people that are retiring, while ignoring the trained workers that are already here with great educations. I personally was told by the employment counselor that I was "too old" to work in FInland and I'm only 45 with a Masters Degree in Computer Science. I agree that the educational system in Finland is second to none, but what happens after completing that education is of great concern to Finns and immigrants alike. Too many Finns have finished school only to be unemployed for years and finally take their skills elsewhere, where they can get better jobs and higher paper and feel that they are valued more.

Posted by: Michel | May 24, 2005 02:33 AM

To measure the success of the Finnish educational system it might be good to compare it to the systems in the other Nordic countries. Having gotten my education in Finland and having seen some of the systems in Sweden and Norway, I feel that one reason for Finlands success is that the main emphasis in Finland is that a pupil is in school to learn, to get an education. Strangely the emphasis is the other Nordic countries is more on that students should enjoy themselves and become well integrated members of society. While this is certainly important, one must not assume that an educational system is effective just because a lot of money is poured into it. I thus feel that the other Nordic countries got too used to their good systems and changed the priorities without realizing that the results would change too.

Posted by: Dude | May 24, 2005 03:08 AM

The very last comment by a teacher stating that Finns have to have something to show that they're very good at something is very telling really. Finns have a very very low self esteem as a nation for some reason. And this comes to show in sports, especially when played against Sweden. Finns don't generally mind that they lost in the recent ice hockey world cup, but if they just could have beaten those Swedes, darn it.

Posted by: Kaari Jae | May 24, 2005 04:01 AM

About the last point of Finnish knowing english so well... I don't think this has to do so much about teachers being good as the fact that in Finland the tv-shows and movies are not dupped. That is contrary to most of the non-english-speaking nations in the world that I know of. So we start to learn english - subconsciously - at a very young age.

Posted by: a Finn | May 24, 2005 05:50 AM

Hi, I'm a mexican american living in finland for the past 3 years. As Michel had stated earlier, it is VERY difficult to find a job in finland, especially if you are a foreigner. I myself even with a bachelors in mechanical engineering ended up working in a english preschool. In this country, if you are a foreigner, everyone basically assumes that you are a refugee. Especially if you have dark features. Gypsies aren't even considered human. I would be surprised if they are accounted for in the census. They say gypsies don't go to school, but they don't look like gypsies until they are married, at that point, they decide whether or not they will wear their traditional dresses and from then on, they wear them all the time.

But let me tell you the true reason why finnish students do so well on tests. Teachers are a small part of the reason, the big reason is CULTURE. That's right, there is nothing more important to a finnish family than the education of their children. The parents talk about their children's studies all the time, they help their children study, they proof read, they make special tests for them, they send them to extra intensive courses just before the big end of year exams. You see, in this country, you're either educated or you are "amatti" un-educated.

Finland has a holiday called Vappu on May 1st. On this day, everyone who graduated from highschool (not vocational school) wears a white hat. By law, you only have to attend school up to the 9th grade. People begin schooling at the age of 7 years old, therefore being a bit more mature. At the age of 14, they are expected to decide if they will do highschool(who can go on to university) or vocational school(to learn a trade like plumbing, janitor, road repair, truck driving,super blue collar work). Then the kids in highschool need to decide if they will pursue high math(for engineering and accounting) or low math(for liberal arts, hotel and tourism, etc..). At this point, the grand divide begins. Most students of high math only mingle with other high math students. Low math only mingle with low math students and the same with vocational school students. Then, the students who go off to university rarely would date or even imagine marrying someone who did not have a university degree. They call the people who go off to junior college(vocational school) "AMMIS" and it's not a compliment.

So this is one big reason for why they do so well in school. In the schools, there is absolutely no respect for teachers. They call their teachers by their first names or they make up degrading nicknames for them and say it to their face. Many of the finnish teachers that I know go off and get drunk just as much as any teachers I know in Los Angeles. Actually, since getting drunk at a party in finland is almost "required", I am sure Finnish teachers are drunk more often.

Another major factor has to be the fact that most finns only have one child. So this child receives a lot of attention and investment. The low birth rate also aids in their low child mortality rate. It's easier to hit a target with a rifle than with a machine gun.

I seriously doubt that the finnish teachers deserve most of the credit. It's like a doctor in Florida taking credit for the great tan everybody in Florida has. It's the culture!

At this moment, I have completed my masters of Material Science in the University of Tampere. This has to be the easiest system in the world. In all of my classes, there was only a final exam for each class. Rarely did most students ever show up to lectures. Copies of old exams are available in the department offices. And the new exams tend to repeat the same questions as the old ones. So it is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to fail an exam. But it is also VERY VERY difficult to get a perfect or near perfect score. Compared to my Bachelors from Cal Poly Pomona where we had almost weekly quizes, mid-terms, then final exams plus homework that was a part of your grade. But maybe at masters level everywhere in the world, life gets this easy.

They also practice in highschool by using many old exams.

In Los Angeles, in my schools, that was always considered cheating. If anyone was caught with old exams in the university, something bad happened to them. And teachers were not allowed to make copies of books of anything. We had to buy them or check them out of the library. But in europe, it is not illegal to copy something if it is for educational purposes. That is why we do not need to buy books in europe for univeristy courses. The teachers give us copies of books and notes and handouts to study from.

So these are some of the factors that go into those high scores. So if you want those high scores for your children, now you know what you have to do.

Eduardo Hernandez
lebite@yahoo.com

Posted by: Eduardo Hernandez | May 24, 2005 06:01 AM

If you would like to know a little more about life in Tampere, Finland, you can visit my webpage.

http://www.students.tut.fi/~hernand2/tampereinfo/

Posted by: Eduardo Hernandez | May 24, 2005 06:17 AM

I agree with Eduardo, culture plays a big role in our "educational achievements".

But to say that there's a "grand divide" between "high math" and "low math" students is exaggerating. Yes, students who go to vocational school/high school tend to socialize more among their peers, but that's mainly because high schools and vocational schools are usually far apart from each other, geographically.

"They also practice in highschool by using many old exams.
In Los Angeles, in my schools, that was always considered cheating."

I wonder how Finns did so well in PISA (good ol' PISA, always there when you need it :)http://www.pisa.oecd.org/pages/0,2987,en_32252351_32235731_1_1_1_1_1,00.html
if they only get grades because of cheating.

Posted by: Markus | May 24, 2005 06:27 AM

How good a joob can you get in the States if you don't speak good English? I think it is quite natural that if you need to work in a Finnish environment, the employers will hire someone who has the language skills. There are government funded language and employment courses for foreigners, that help immigrants and refugees get started in their careers. I'm not saying there is no prejudice against hiring those who are not native Finns; as a first generation Finn in my family I get asked of my heritage quite often, but I have learned that having another mother tongue is often considered to be an advantage, since I also speak excellent Finnish.

Posted by: Lena | May 24, 2005 08:01 AM

My brother is from the US and married a Finnish girl. They have two sons. My brother teaches at the university and has tenure. He loves his job and likes the the 'first name' camaraderie with his students. His sons are amazingly well-educated and know more about the world than I do. They speak fluent English and Finnish. All Finns can obtain a great education as it is free and they receive a stipend for living expenses.

Posted by: Sylvia Dellinger | May 24, 2005 09:20 AM

Ah, I didn't accuse the finns of cheating. I just said that in my schools in Los Angeles it was considered cheating if you had copies of old exams.

Whatever you define as cheating.. well.. depends on you I guess.

When you come from a very small country, it's easy to know more about the outside world. It's easy to forget the rest of the world when you live in a huge city or a dynamic country.

Posted by: Eduardo Hernandez | May 24, 2005 09:44 AM

"When you come from a very small country, it's easy to know more about the outside world. It's easy to forget the rest of the world when you live in a huge city or a dynamic country."

Yes, this is true, but it has nothing to do with PISA test. Finns did well in maths as well.

Posted by: Markus | May 24, 2005 09:48 AM

Hola Eduardo,

I sure hope your Finnish wife isn't reading your comments here. So much negativity...

Posted by: Tero Paananen | May 24, 2005 09:50 AM

I think it's because the high caffeine consuming rate, boosting brains.

Posted by: mato | May 24, 2005 10:02 AM

You really need to look into finnish nature. All those lakes (Finland is called the country of thousands of lakes), forests... The effect of clean and close proximity nature is built into our personalities (very easy to understand the whole Scandinavia through this).

I suggest it to be combined with the sauna-experience.

Posted by: Juha Makkonen | May 24, 2005 11:00 AM

I think one important point in finnish schools is that after every 45-minute class, there is a 15-minute recess, where most children (do they still?) go outside and have a chance to release pent-up energy! I mean, how come other school systems haven't realized this?

Posted by: Mikko | May 24, 2005 11:06 AM

Mikko: Yes they still do. In comprehensive school (schoolyears 1-9). School is not all work, there's time for sports & play.

Posted by: Juha Makkonen | May 24, 2005 11:14 AM

Elementary and secondary education in Finland may be excellent, but I would argue that university education is subpar. I think this may be partially due to the Finnish language and top-ranked foreigners becoming scared off by high taxation and lack of job opportunities post-graduation. There is no Harvard, Oxford, or Sciences Po in Finland.
Also, as in health care, when you are educating children, it is a lot easier if the variables- race, religion, economic background, language of the parents, are all the same. Try applying Finnish educational techniques in an American classroom and you will not get the same results because there are too many differences with our children. As Finland becomes less homogeneous it will be interesting to observe if the same problems other western, more mixed countries experience surface in Finnish classrooms.

Posted by: Love the Finns | May 24, 2005 11:19 AM

I read all your blogs so far and was amazed of the accuracy. Usually foreign reporters coming to Finland don't want to spend time getting the real information. They just write about how it seems and what they have heard in their home countries.

I'm a freshman in university, so I've experienced the whole Finnish educational system. As unbeliavable as it seems, it really is as good as what we say it is. When Finnish kids graduate from high-schools (or upper secondary schools, another translation for Finnish lukio), they all know at least English and Swedish on a level of which the American conterparts can only imagine. I've never met or heard of an American high-school graduate, who really can communicate in another language than English. And by the way, my English comes from the Finnish educational system, I've never lived abroad.

So thanks for your nice reports, I'll be coming on your site again for sure :)

Posted by: Noora Penttinen | May 24, 2005 11:22 AM

I just want to thank everyone for this lively discussion! Lucian and I have never had such intense and immediate feeback. If we keep up with it while we're in Finland, that's all we'll be able to do! But we will tune in from time to time, and we will answer questions too.

Posted by: Bob Kaiser | May 24, 2005 11:22 AM

"There is no Harvard, Oxford, or Sciences Po in Finland."
There's no Harvard etc. in Sweden, Norway or any other small country either.

"Also, as in health care, when you are educating children, it is a lot easier if the variables- race, religion, economic background, language of the parents, are all the same."
I agree, at least partly. I can't see how heterogeneity affects health care, but it undoubtedly affects education.

Posted by: Markus | May 24, 2005 11:42 AM

We had a computer glitch that mistakenly disabled our e-mail address, finlanddiary@washingtonpost.com. You can send us private mail to this address now. It is working again. Sorry we had this problem.

Posted by: Bob Kaiser | May 24, 2005 12:50 PM

I've only been to Finland once (20 years ago, only for a week, to perform at a summer music festival) and really liked Helsiniki a lot.

I hope you can do a story on the arts in Finland.

Aki Kaurismaki is one of my favorite film directors and I adore "The Match Factory Girl". My husband doesn't 'get it' at all, but would you Finnish commenters say that's a good example of Finnish character and humor?

Early Modern Finnish textile, design and architecture is wonderful.

What are the art schools like?

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) | May 24, 2005 01:59 PM

What is the music scene like? (rock, pop, clubs, etc.)

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) | May 24, 2005 02:17 PM

Eduardo -you sound like an angry middle-aged man disappointed about the way your life turned out...

Having gone through the Finnish educational system in the 70s, 80s and early 90s, I would say that it is excellent. Having students decide after 9th grade whether they want to go to high school or to vocational school is brilliant -contrary to what Eduardo purports above, those who go to vocational school are not somehow deemed "second-class" citizes, but rather their vocational training gives them status that similar level workers in the U.S., for example, don't have. This is supported by the fact that those with vocational training can receive the same health care, same education for their children, and live in similar housing as those with college degrees. My immediate family is all vocational-school educated, some of my extended family members are college educated, and I have a Ph.D. -I lived among, went to school with and played with children from all socioeconomic backgrounds, many of whom are still my friends. I was enrolled in "low math" courses (as Eduardo has translated lyhyt matikka), and "high language" courses, and I have to say that the allegation that there is some kind of a divide between those two groups is ridiculous! Nobody cared, and if anything, those in "high math" were considered nerds! (Typical of teenagers!)

My parents never checked on any of my school work, because they trusted that the teachers and the school system were doing their job. A great example of this is the fact that when I attended college in the U.S., my class mates, who spoke English as their native language, had me proof read their papers because my writing, grammar and spelling skills were so much better than theirs -and I didn't learn these from watching U.S. television programming (Which I hardly ever did -we had three TV channels with interesting programming from about 6pm to midnight.)

Eduardo seems to have confused two things... Vappu is "tyolaistenpaiva," the same as May Day around the world, deemed to celebrate "the worker," whatever that means. Have you ever wondered what the Vappu marches are about? Who is marching and why? Another confusion for Eduardo seems to be that he equates addressing a teacher by first name with a sign of disrespect -respect really has nothing to do with titles, and addressing Finnish teachers by their first names is a continuation of using first names only in Finland in general -have you heard of "sinunkaupat?" My college students in the U.S. call me by my first name, and I rarely encounter any disrespect from them.

A few other random thoughts in response to Eduardo's comments...

1. Italy has a lower birth rate than Finland, but their child mortality rate is much higher.
2. The PISA tests are not available beforehand.
3. So because a country is small, its citizens need to learn more about world affairs? Shouldn't it be the opposite -since the U.S. meddles so much in international affairs, shouldn't its citizens know what they are meddling in? Sounds like U.S. arrogance.
4. As someone previously mentioned -low language skills equal low skilled labor around the world.

And finally, it is common knowledge that it is better to get your primary and secondary education, and bachelor's degree in Europe (and evidently best to do so in Finland), and to get your master's and above degrees in the U.S. -there are multiple reasons for the supremacy of graduate education in the U.S., for which I dont' want to take more space here.

Posted by: | May 24, 2005 02:42 PM

"would you Finnish commenters say that's a good example of Finnish character and humor?"

In a way, yes. But I think it is more an example of Kaurismäki´s character and humour. If you like The Match Factory Girl you will also like The Man without a Past. And your husband would get it even less.

Posted by: no name | May 24, 2005 02:50 PM

Their language is "obtuse"? Doesn't obtuse mean stupid?

Posted by: A. Nonymous | May 24, 2005 05:13 PM

I think what matters just as much as the quality of the teachers is the quality of the students (and parents of the students). It's really lame to constantly blame energetic, idealistic, motivated, well-intentioned teachers in the US for their failing students, when it's really the students' and their parents' own fault. Yes, I taught in an inner city school and learned the hard way: it's always, always, always the teacher's fault, at least to educrats.

Posted by: zagnut | May 24, 2005 05:19 PM

Quoting Bob: "Lucian and I have never had such intense and immediate feeback."

Why am I not surprised? I knew this blog would reach similar proportions as the famous (well, at least in Finland it is famous) "Conan O'Brian hates my home land" incident. We Finns started to send postcards to poor Conan well before he had made any insults on Finland, which of course prompted him to insult us for this stupidity (and rightly so). This was reported in the Finnish media with certain pride, and the episode showing Conan insult Finland was rerun a couple of times. Just to make sure everybody gets it right: We were so proud. A wonderful example of our low self esteem. We are obsessed to know what others think about us. For this very same reason, your trip to Finland was widely publicized in advance in the Finnish media.

Take a look at the old joke, in which a Finn, a Frenchman and an American run into an elephant in a safari: http://dbgw.finlit.fi/fili/bff/204/freshairandflowers204.htm
This pretty much sums up the reason why you will get tons of feedback from Finns during your trip.

About the PISA survey: Just last week somebody actually studied the survey in detail and figured out why Finland did so well. It is because the worst-performing schoolchildren in Finland did much better than the worst-performing kids elsewhere. This raised our average and made us score highest. The best and brightest kids in Finland were behind the best and brightest of many other countries. In fact, just today it was reported that Finnish (probably hard science) universities do not share the optimistic hype of PISA results; supposedly the freshmen need remedial tuition before they can start university-level (science) courses.

Put another way - we care about the losers, not about the winners. This mentality applies to the whole society, not just the educational system. Just as Finns envy successful businessmen (can you name any other country in which you can purchase your neighbor's gross income from the previous fiscal year as a text message to your cell phone?) we would envy elite schools, if they only existed. Hence any debate about the possibility to found private (=elite) schools in Finland quickly dies away.

Instead of showcasing Linus Torvalds as a witness of our superb education system, I would rather ask "how on earth did Linus survive the Finnish public school system without becoming just another Joe Average?" Well, maybe then it is no coincidence that the high school that Linus attended ranks among top 10 (out of 441) every year, requires top grades to get in and is therefore considered an elite school although public. Linus did not go to an average school.

Mr. Incredible's comment (in the movie Incredibles) that schools "keep inventing new ways to celebrate mediocrity" is so true in Finland that it makes me wonder if Dash goes to school here.

And by the way, I fully agree with "Love the Finns" that the Finnish university education is subpar. How did the University of Helsinki produce someone like Linus Torvalds? Well - I do not know Linus personally - but like many science students in Finland he probably skipped all lectures (physical presence is not required for most university courses), studied on his own and passed the exams.

To end on a more positive note... yes, there are many good aspects in the Finnish system. We are so darn equal and homogeneous that even 20% unemployment rate in some urban areas does not cause civil unrest.

Posted by: Another Finn | May 24, 2005 05:32 PM

As an eight year old, I spent six influential months in Finland [1980], and assimilated [as best as an American can] into my second grade class in Turku. Some indelible impressions:

1) Cultural/Institutional gratitude - we were required to bow/curtsy to our teacher after a meal. I was told this was a legacy from famines in previous generations, it reminded me to never take anything [including food] for granted. From it I learned respect for authority, history, philosophy.

2) Fortitude - Regardless of the minus 40F winter, we still bundled up and traipsed outside to practice our cross-country skiing and ice-skating skills at the adjoining rink. We were expected to lace our own skates despite numb fingers and clumsy mittens. From this, I gleaned the importance of self-reliance, endurance and athletic prowess... remember, this is the year the Soviets lost to the US in Olympic Hockey, I was an eight-year-old ambassador, and felt compelled to hold up my end of the bargain.

3) Pacifism - Schoolyard tackle-smear completely muddled all of my classmates. This was a school full of kids whose media influence consisted of Moomintrolls, not Superfriends and Captain Caveman. The chaotic violence of American recess was completely lost in translation. Consider being scolded by your male classmates for playing too rough... and you are an American girl!

Posted by: Melissa | May 24, 2005 05:50 PM

I would like to comment on the quote "In the schools, there is absolutely no respect for teachers. They call their teachers by their first names or they make up degrading nicknames for them and say it to their face."

In our culture, we address each other by our first names. This is not a sign of lack of respect. If a student suddenly came in and called the teacher Mr. so and so, the teacher would probably be pretty surprised!

My husband, and American currently teaching in America, taught in Finland for close to 10 years, in grades from Kindergarten all the way up to University. He always tells everyone who cares to listen how extraordinarily respectful and motivated Finnish students are, and how much the respect the Teacher enjoys in the the Finnish Society.

I do of course not know Eduardo's particular situation, but from his very negative comments it really sounds to me like Eduardo has not really managed to, or may be doesn't even wish to, understand and integrate into the Finnish culture. I hope that his experience will change and that he will be able to enjoy his Finnish experience. Having lived in several countries and cultures (in Europe, America, the Caribbean and Asia) myself, I can with confidence say that happiness and quality of life in a culture foreign to your own directly correlates with your won willingness to learn, accept and integrate.

Posted by: | May 24, 2005 06:00 PM

"At the age of 14, they are expected to decide if they will do highschool(who can go on to university) or vocational school(to learn a trade like plumbing, janitor, road repair, truck driving,super blue collar work)."

Actually, nowadays it is possible to go to university even if you aren't a high school graduate but have gone through vocational school instead. Sure, it requires good grades and success in the entrance exams, but it is possible.

Posted by: | May 24, 2005 07:19 PM

I have children who have gone to Universities in France and Germany (one year each for two of them). Also one of my children went to a German Public school from Kindegarten through grade 13 and she received her Abitur.
My impressions are that European schools through high school are clearly superior to those in the US. However, US Universities are just as clearly superior to European Universities. This may also apply to Finland and would explain many of the comments.

Posted by: Mike 29 | May 24, 2005 07:59 PM

The graphic gave median salaries for several jobs in Finland. I had the comparable data at hand for the USA, so I cooked up the following chart giving salary, job, and (for the US), year-round workers.

Comparison of salaries:
Finland:
$28,344 Nursery School Teacher
$37,932 Grade School Teacher
$45,216 Upper Secondary/Vocational Teacher
$32,364 Nurse
$32,592 Bus Driver
$82,032 Physician

USA:
$15,569 Teacher Assistants (186,925)
$17,614 Preschool and Kindergarten Teachers (247,440)
$30,587 Other Teachers and Instructors (181,450)
$35,129 Special Education Teachers (136,870)
$36,216 Elementary and Middle School Teachers (2,450,940)
$36,866 Librarians (100,475)
$38,251 Secondary School Teachers (630,680)
$46,698 Postsecondary Teachers (745,475)
$27,265 Bus Drivers (202,375)
$27,395 Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses (375,065)
$42,562 Registered Nurses (1,439,915)
$124,125 Physicians and Surgeons (523,550)

(Finland data from Washington Post graphic - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/graphic/2005/05/24/GR2005052400072.html ; USA data from US Census' Earnings by Occupation and Education survey - http://www.census.gov/hhes/income/earnings/call2usboth.html.

Posted by: Philip Flip Kromer | May 24, 2005 08:04 PM

I once met a Finn in Barcelona. I'm English and at the time I spoke no Spanish. I had got myself in a mess with pre-booked university accomodation and couldn't communicate with the Spanish secretary who was trying to explain to me that I needed to pay a deposit that I didn't know about. The Finn sorted out my problem for me in Spanish while explaining what was going on to me in English. That may not seem so special, but the point is that the whole time I thought he was from California. Really. His English was so good that I, a native speaker, couldn't tell he wasn't. I later found out that he actually spoke eight or nine languages, that he could discuss Shakespeare in English, Einstein in German and Picasso in Spanish. I was humbled.

Posted by: rob | May 24, 2005 09:04 PM

I lived in Helsinki from 1970-1974 and taught English at a private language school. Since returning to the U.S. I have taught middle school in the public school system here. I sometimes think it would have been better to have stayed in Finland where our son would have had a far superior education as well as learning three languages.
My husband is from Finland and his depth of knowledge always amazes me. I love the country, the people, the nature and the education it gave me while I was there.

Posted by: Nancy | May 24, 2005 10:01 PM

How wonderful it is when a nation can invest in its children. If we did not have to spend annually $500+ billion on defense and national security and being the world's bully, we could have so much more. The "national security state" is an expensive proposition, and everything else, from health care to education, goes down the tubes when this is the goal of a people and a country, which is what has happened in America. The Finns, Swedes, Canandians, and everyboy else in the first world, except us, have their act so much more together.

Posted by: Joe | May 24, 2005 10:13 PM

Duhhh. Why are Finnish schools so good? Finland is a monoculture. 99% of the country is white Scandinavian, same culture, same values, same parents, same teachers, same religion, same motivation, same, same, same, same, same, same same same samesamesamesame.

Boring, in a word, to multiculturalists. Now take Sweden, which has Malmo, a majority minority city that is in utter chaos. Gang rape of Swedish girls by minority boys and men who are taught that Swedish (or German, or English , or Dutch or whatever) girls are whores. Police won't go there, nor firefighters, nor postmen, window fixers, car towers, nor any other white folks with an ounce of brains in their head. Violent crime? You bet! Lousy schools? You bet! Exciting? You bet! Multicultural? With a vengeance!

Malmoites have radically different attitudes toward work, religion, women, sex, morality, reading, education, in short,radically different beliefs about everything that makes up a cohesive culture.

So you can find crappy schools right next to Finland in Sweden. But you can also find Finlandy schools right here in America.

If you want to see a mini-Finland in America, go to the Dakotas and see what their schools are like. Look at their national test scores, see how little violence there is. White monoculture is good for schools and bad for exciting multiculturalism.

So ask youself, how long is the Washington Post going to ignore the obvious, the painfully obvious? How long until their intrepid reporters notice the strange, strange Finland phenomenon: no non-whites, no non-Scandinavians and no immigration. How long until they ask themselves whether that has some effect? How long? Forever. They will never notice it. They cannot. It is leftist blasphemy.

They will just walk through classroom after classroom of white blonds with nary a black person or brown person or Muslim, or Hindu, or Jain, or in sight, AND THEY WILL NEVER SEE IT! They ill not say it is "hypersegregated". They will not say it is "anti-multiculturalist". They will say nothing bad at all. They will just not see it.

Posted by: Joe Doaks | May 25, 2005 12:45 AM

"Finnish commenters say that's a good example of Finnish character and humor?"

More like caricature.

Posted by: Markus | May 25, 2005 12:53 AM

Quoting Finn:
"Put another way - we care about the losers, not about the winners."

That's true to some extent. We should take better care of the talented.

"A wonderful example of our low self esteem."

As was your writing as well. When someone tells we do something right, it doesn't take long before some Finns that (always) feel inferior to other countries start putting us down. (Ending on a obligatory positive note, of course, to maintain the illusion of objectiveness).

Posted by: Markus | May 25, 2005 01:05 AM

"The Finns, Swedes, Canandians, and everyboy else in the first world, except us, have their act so much more together."

Perhaps they have the ability to do such a thing because we provide for their defense. If the Swedes, Finns and Canadians woke up one day and there was no America armed to the hilt, they'd have to do it themselves, and this would cost them money! There's also the fact that Americans subsidize most of the research money for new drugs by paying exorbitant drug prices. European health care would crumble if they had to pay enough money to actually fund drug research instead of letting the Americans do it.

Joe Doaks, you told the dirty little secret! Shhhhhhhh! Must keep quiet!

Posted by: marie | May 25, 2005 01:18 AM

"Perhaps they have the ability to do such a thing because we provide for their defense. If the Swedes, Finns and Canadians woke up one day and there was no America armed to the hilt, they'd have to do it themselves, and this would cost them money!"

Hmmm. Funny, I haven't seen american troops around. I'm not sure if marie is ignorant or that she thinks USA as a world police takes care of our defence.
You know we're not part of NATO, you know we have our own army, you know we never got any help defending our country (not that I was there in the trenches ;) from USA???

Posted by: Markus | May 25, 2005 02:24 AM

"Duhhh. Why are Finnish schools so good? Finland is a monoculture."

There was a school from eastern Helsinki in that PISA survey. I wish I remembered the name of it, but I don´t. But it is a school where half of the students are from immigrant families. They have "mother tongue teaching" in over dozen languages.

That school did no worse in PISA than "monoculture" schools.

Posted by: x | May 25, 2005 06:53 AM

Defense is not simply about NATO membership. During the Cold War, Sweden's defense strategy relied for decades on the United States to come to help them would the need arise. There was no official agreement. Today, Sweden openly states that the country couldn't be defended if such a need would arise. Finland claims otherwise but the presence of NATO countries in the neighborhood has always been the stabilizing factor that Finland's defense has counted on. The very existence of NATO has been essential for Finland (and Sweden), even if having an own army (and not having US soldiers) has been the preferred strategy.

Posted by: Topi L | May 25, 2005 07:47 AM

""The teachers did it" is pretty much the universal answer to questions about Finland's educational successes."

If you ask the teachers.


"So this is one big reason for why they do so well in school. In the schools, there is absolutely no respect for teachers."
and then:
"Many of the finnish teachers that I know go off and get drunk just as much as any teachers I know in Los Angeles. Actually, since getting drunk at a party in finland is almost "required", I am sure Finnish teachers are drunk more often."

And then they come to work with a hang-over and angry to all those kids who disrupt their day.
...Wonder why there is no respect ?

Those who study to be teachers, are known for their like of (too much) alcohol. The profession atracts that kind of people.

Posted by: Samppa | May 25, 2005 08:16 AM

"Those who study to be teachers, are known for their like of (too much) alcohol. The profession atracts that kind of people."

Holy moses! Compared to let's say engineering students teachers are angels!

Silly post, silly...

Posted by: Markus | May 25, 2005 08:26 AM

I find it really funny we're talking about education and universities theres an advertisement selling online degrees on the page.

Finns' regard foreign degrees sometimes with suspect: you can "buy" them...

Posted by: Hank W. | May 25, 2005 08:56 AM

Hi and thanks for the nice and surprisingly accurate articles!

I've been recently thinking about this old story of "low self esteem" and I think it is generally a false conclusion of a real phenomenon. Finns are highly interested in other nations' observations, because they truly want to know, what is the wild story of the day. There is a long history of utterly crazy, absurd stories told about Finland. Many people in other countries actually believe that polar bears are walking by the Helsinki railway station. Another common mistake is to classify Finland as "another poor communist country". This is either comical or insulting as Finland has been an exceptionally democratic country throughout its history. It has been close to Soviet Union, true, but only geographically. The communist party is legal and active but it never gets more than an odd vote. Of course, our democracy is of the "European type" where we actually count the votes and the candidate who gets the majority wins. It may sound strange but we like it that way. Try to understand.

So, many people have absolutely no clue even about the existence of Finland. I've often heard the comment "Finland? Which State?" True story. Therefore we want to know, what these people are told. Such a confusion could never happen with the US. American lifestyle is coming to our living room every single day. Dozens of American TV shows provide are shown weekly. We may have our own misunderstandings about finer aspects of american life, but at least everyone has some idea.

I really don't believe that people have "low self esteem". They are simply curious, because there are both accurate but also incredibly clueless stories floating around. I would call it curiosity, not any desperate lack of attention. At least that's why I'm reading your articles right now. My self esteem won't be affected. Actually I'm using these articles to make my conclusions about the skill of foreign reporters...

Well, thanks again. Keep up the good work. Maybe some day there is a Finnish show on some American TV channel and we don't have to clear up the polar bear story every time.

Posted by: Yet Another Finn | May 25, 2005 08:56 AM

I'd like to Comment on Marie's post:


"...if the ...woke up one day and there was no America armed to the hilt, they'd have to do it themselves,.."

and

"Americans subsidize most of the research money for new drugs by paying exorbitant drug prices. European health care would crumble if they had to pay enough money to actually fund drug research instead of letting the Americans do it."

Your comments are not based on facts. I do not doubt that this is what you belive, because we tend to read that type of assumptions even in media these days, and unfortunatly it seems that there is a segment in society that either does not remember history or never had the opportunity to learn it, and/or who will not care to reserach the facts before forming opinions.

First of all, the Amrican's never came to the aid of Finland, when we were in a bind. Read history and study defense, and you will be amazed at how this small country , which is the only piece of land separating Russia from what once was the only icefree harbor (please contemplate the strategic importance of this)and that has the longest European border with Russia, fought off the Russians , never was occupied them, and to this day is an independent democratic western republic!

Today America would never come to the rescue of Finland. We have no oil. I will not go into the intricacies of our defence and history here, but the simplified gist of it is that in our foreign policy we choose diplomacy over war, we believe in stronly defending our own borders, but will not venure beyond them to foreign lands. We do take part of the clean-up of mess left behind by other's though, by a strong peace keeping precense thru the UN.

Secondly, Finland is known for innovation and reserach in the medical field and many of the benefits of these Finnish innovations we are enjoying here the in the US. The US consumer is not paying for the Finnish drugs. On the contrary, Finns are very much paying for their own drugs, the research that goes into them and high quality of other medical services thru their taxes. Of course there is a benefit of research and innovation doen in all nations in the world. The US is benfiting from this just as is Finland and all other nations. This is as it should be.

Why is it that some American's get so upset when there is a suggestion that some other Nation might be doing something right? One would think that it would be more beneficial to look at this small nation instead and say "hey, maybe there is something we can learn from these guys that will make us even better?!"

Posted by: | May 25, 2005 09:22 AM

Finland is able to invest in schools because she is a small and homogeneous country. We are not a federal country, like the US, and we do not have any real minorities. In America, the whites often oppose increased taxes to pay for schools that are mainly black, or latino.

As Finland becomes wealthier and the population ages, more and more immigrants stream in. Whether the old white folk will be ready to pay for the quality schooling of young colored immigrant kids is an open
question.

Posted by: Henry Konsen | May 25, 2005 09:34 AM

Was Finland really so poor when compared to other countries ?

It started to develop already under russian rule and continued that when it got its independence from Lenin.

Finland does not invest lots in schools.

Instead of fashionable bull about schools, or some philosopher who nobody really has heard about or could care less about, why not instead go see a "lähiö" - best known is Hervanta in tampere. It looks like the kind of place the other half lives - but is the best of them. There are such in all town, yet only in tampere the people living there are happy and talkative.
http://www.hervanta.fi/ie/index.html

Or talk to relatives of veikko hursti. Or a EU bread line where they give out food for the poor. They say, in Helsinki, everybody who queues gets food - smaller town, you need to be approved by the social office nazis.

They used to have lots of tales in the media of how the poor are very poor in america here in finland and probably most of europe, at least until russia fell.
http://www.helsinginsanomat.fi/english/article/print/1101979458230

Posted by: :) | May 25, 2005 11:09 AM

Marie: As others have noted, Finland has been, and is, able to defend itself. But since we are a small country, we concentrate on taking care of our own business, instead of meddling with everyone else's... I've has a couple of interesting conversations on this topic with my friends from Texas. Still, it's not a bad thing for us to be a nation that has a long border with a non-EU country.

Samppa: I come from a family of teachers in three generations, and I have been close to the teacher community for my whole life. I really haven't seen the alcohol issue you mentioned, but actually the opposite. It seems that the teachers drink less than people do in average in Finland. I don't have facts, though; only my own observations.

Posted by: Marlene | May 25, 2005 12:27 PM

To "Yet Another Finn": they actually showed Finnish miniserie "Raid" in TV during last couple months and now they are showing the actual movie in theater next month ;) But then again, I have no idea how many Americans really saw that one.. But as a Finn I was surprised in agood way when I noticed it!

Posted by: Maria | May 25, 2005 12:31 PM

The slideshow of schools was great. No Somalis or Kurdis. Show us a slideshow of the Finnish army with no women. Then you are doing a better job than the Finnish media.

Posted by: Petteri | May 25, 2005 02:36 PM

"Show us a slideshow of the Finnish army with no women."

I don't think army allows pics like that.

Posted by: In case you didn't notice | May 25, 2005 02:50 PM

To Maria.
I could not watch "Raid". And I like the Raid-books. The series and the movie... not so good.

Posted by: Petteri | May 25, 2005 04:42 PM

"It started to develop already under russian rule and continued that when it got its independence from Lenin."

That sort of delusion requires a comment. Includes a reference to the education system.

That's another lie from the days of the Soviet Union. After Soviet Union failed to gain full military victory over Finland, it did never controlled Finland, but did had a strong influence. Sure they used a lot of energy for trying to flip Finland in to socialism in 50's and 70's.
Some usefull idiots actually thought that SU should be supported, and failed to see through the doubletalk. When they spoke of peace, they ment war. When they wanted to trade something, they were actually demanding something. Some people used their SU contacts to gain personal benefits, and the politicians used their connections without a shame. These lead to some coloring of the history. Unfortunately, those who studied their history in the early years of the new Finnish elementary school system back in -70s and early 80s, had to study from the government-approved school books. And the government had a policy not to upset Soviet Union. And, curiously, the elementary school system was copied from the East-Germany in the beginning of the 70's. In a few certain schools (Pirkkala), even the brain-washing policy was copied, but soon dropped as we approached the 80's.

For the independence: Russians gave nothing. It was taken. First legally (late 1917). The independence was first recognized by Sweden, weeks ahead of Russia, which hoped Finland to flip into a Soviet State as the russian troops infiltrated by communists agitators begun to assist finnish communists (1918) in their revolution. In the end, the revolt was estinguished and also the Russian forces were kicked out. Lot of Russian immigrants remained in Finland as they fled from the young soviet tyranny, including the majority of the jews in Finland.

Posted by: Mordechai | May 25, 2005 06:02 PM

Many people seem to be under the impression that only white, Finnish people live in Finland, and that the Finnish welfare state will crumble as soon as there are some non-white people living in Finland. At the same time, these people seem to be accusing Finns of being racist.

I live in Kallio, Helsinki, which is much more multicultural than any of the areas in the U.S that I have lived in (Washington state, Ohio, and New York state). I see much less racism than I saw in the United States, many more interracial couples, and genuine, every day respect between ordinary people, regardless of their ethnic origin. Our kids go to a multicultural school - here the schools really are that, and not ghettoized by race like in the U.S.

It threatens many Americans to think that other countries may do something better. It saddens me when the response to new information is anger and shutting down, and refusing to learn or understand.

Of course, that is only damaging to the Americans themselves, leaving the rest of the world to move on and develop further.

Posted by: | May 25, 2005 06:08 PM

Eduardo - I understand that you are very frustrated about not finding a job you like, so are many unemployed Finns and Americans with bachelors and masters degrees - but please stop making things up. You are only making yourself look bad.

Posted by: Kristiina | May 25, 2005 07:21 PM

"I live in Kallio, Helsinki, which is much more multicultural than any of the areas in the U.S that I have lived in (Washington state, Ohio, and New York state)."

So how far out in the countryside were you??

Posted by: Phil | May 26, 2005 01:28 AM

"If you want to see a mini-Finland in America, go to the Dakotas and see what their schools are like. Look at their national test scores, see how little violence there is. White monoculture is good for schools and bad for exciting multiculturalism."

Look at some of the ethnic groups in the U.S. that kick the white kids' ass - The asians generally do extremely well in classes and tests, same goes for the Indians, same goes for the Jews, same goes for any exchange students....if it wasn't for these multiculturals coming to the states, our school performance and test scores would be even lower! ...oh, and these groups aren't the ones being violent either.

- Phil
http://www.finlandforthought.net

Posted by: Phil | May 26, 2005 01:34 AM

So, Mordechai, you lived in "Kekkoslovakia" as a kid as well? ;)

Posted by: Hank W. | May 26, 2005 02:41 AM

"Post Army Pics with no women"

... oh, you mean like these?
http://www.finlandforthought.net/temp/army1.jpg

I think the army doesn't allow cameras in the barracks for a reason.

Posted by: Hank W. | May 26, 2005 05:28 AM

Concerning PISA-survey. Finland's Swedish speaking schools got lower points and thus made Finland's results lower if only Finnish speaking schools had been in the survey.

That makes the Finnish speakers to say that the quotas for the Swedish speakers in the higher education must be humiliating for them in terms of the historical background.

They had not access to a higher education without quotas.

Swedish speaking University of Abo Academi for example arranges separate Swedish language "tests" for the graduates from Finnish colleges even if the Finnish speaking aplicant had got best scores in the entrance-tentament which takes place in Swedish from the Swedish langauge books;)

Similar system existed in the Deep South of USA in order to keep the Afroamericans out of higher "white only" education.

Abo Academi uses the language test in Swedish as a similar tool. If there is "too many" Finnish speaking persons passing the entrance tentaments the level of Swedish langauge test will be strengthened to a degree that members of "lower caste" don't occpy the entire Swedish university.

The aim is that 25 % of the students were Finnish speakers allthought Finnish speaking Finns are over 90 % of the population. That is Scandinavian style caste system.

As mentioned the Finns are shy,speacially Finland-Swedes, who hardly like to tell about these "intern" arangements in details.

Posted by: Native North-European | May 26, 2005 05:38 AM

what's this about teachers and problems with alcohol?!?!? I am a young teacher and I do not drink much at all. So is my mother who drinks even less than I do. my mother-in-law is a teacher and she enjoyes some wine occasionally. some of my colleagues may or may not drink, I don't know - but it certainly does not show if they do drink. some Finns drink a lot, some none at all. the further North you go on the Northern hemispere, the more people tend to drink because of the darkness of the winters.

Posted by: OK | May 26, 2005 06:03 AM

I'm studying computer science In Helsinki University, and thought I'd comment on one post. I don't have alot of personal experience of studying in university elsewhere, but I did do about 50 credits of Business Administration in Beirut (in a university affiliated with an american university).

"In all of my classes, there was only a final exam for each class."

Just about all courses I've done untill now, we are required to attend a weekly "lab" for exercises. This is not required if you take the separate final test (but is expected if you take the normal final test). There are also courses (mainly math) where you have a midterm exam.

This test covers the whole subject that we have been studying, so as long as it's a "small" course, I don't see any reason to do it otherwise. The only advantage I can think of with a weekly exam, is keeping students on their toes (so they don't leave a majority of the studying for the end of the course).

"Rarely did most students ever show up to lectures."

I have never understood the concept of required attendance in a school where most people are adults. I like the way that the choice is left to the student himself. Personally I work fulltime in the same field that I'm studying, and have a family. I would feel silly if I had to attend all the lectures on a topic I allready know.

"Copies of old exams are available in the department offices. And the new exams tend to repeat the same questions as the old ones."

Sure, if you go through enough old tests, they are bound to include questions on the same topics (or even the same questions) as the new test. This is because (atleast in my case) going through 5-6 old tests goes through the whole subject at hand. Usually there are "hands on excersises" that can help you study for a test, but I've never been on a course where there would be enough of them. That's the main reason I do alot of the old tests too.

If you know the whole topic you have studied, sure you will succeed in the test.

Comparing to studying in Beirut, I've noticed a few differances. There we had too much things that had to be learned by heart. Here it seems that the school system preferes understanding rather then learning something. This suits me well, as I have a very bad memory.

Posted by: Mika | May 26, 2005 07:09 AM

Eduardo,
Please, pack your bags and leave ASAP! Don't keep California waiting for you any longer. Finland will be a better place without you.
Your writing illustrates that you were educated in the USA.

Posted by: A Finn in Florida | May 26, 2005 07:53 AM

"A visit to Severinkangas's eighth-grade class demonstrates that her students can all read and speak in English, a language that has virtually nothing in common with the Finns' obtuse and complex native tongue."
Why do you call Finnish language obtuse?
For us it is no more obtuse than English language is for e.g. Americans or the English tongue for us. Or are you hinting that you do not understand Finnish, which may not all be the language's fault.

Posted by: Merja | May 26, 2005 08:53 AM

"Why do you call Finnish language obtuse?
For us it is no more obtuse than English language is for e.g. Americans or the English tongue for us. Or are you hinting that you do not understand Finnish, which may not all be the language's fault."

It's likely that "obtuse" was a careless error. "Abstruse" would have made more sense.

"Obtuse" means "difficult to understand because of a lack of precision or clarity".

"Abstruse" means "difficult for an outsider to understand".

Posted by: Tor Aschan | May 26, 2005 01:00 PM

My, my, my....who would have thought that little Suomi could illicite so much pride, debate and venom. As a teacher, who just happens to be Finnish-Canadian and who does not get plastered every night after work, I've tried to keep up on educational advances. My fear is that my provincial gov't is currently moving towards an American style system (cash incentives, standardized testing) and not towards the Finnish system. Seems some parts of Canada are moving backwards and not forwards. Just watch our rank drop if this system comes into place.

Posted by: Christa | May 26, 2005 01:46 PM

I talked to a couple of Finnish 9th graders who had learned at school that in some American schools creationism is taught instead of, or as an equal to, evolution theory. I asked them what they thought about that, and they said it was great. "The more stupid Americans become, the easier it is for everyone else to take over the world." They clarified they meant getting good jobs and "just being smarter".

Posted by: | May 26, 2005 02:02 PM

I know that it's not clever to continue the language arguement, but when I see statements like this...

---
"Swedish speaking University of Abo Academi for example arranges separate Swedish language "tests" for the graduates from Finnish colleges even if the Finnish speaking aplicant had got best scores in the entrance-tentament which takes place in Swedish from the Swedish langauge books;)

Similar system existed in the Deep South of USA in order to keep the Afroamericans out of higher "white only" education.

Abo Academi uses the language test in Swedish as a similar tool. If there is "too many" Finnish speaking persons passing the entrance tentaments the level of Swedish langauge test will be strengthened to a degree that members of "lower caste" don't occpy the entire Swedish university."
---


Doesn't the Swedish language test for Åbo Akademi take place _before_ the entrance examination? You go to the language test to be permitted to go any actual entrance exam afterwards, in the same year or in the future? I think.

I am a Finnish-speaking high school graduate and I went to the Swedish language test this year. I got a score good enough to let me apply to any of the faculties. And the _average_ applicant got a score good enough to let them apply to the natural science kind of faculties. So the test can't have been overwhelmingly hard. (And why would a real "fennomaani" want to go to ÅA anyway? I've always thought that it's not exactly an elite university.)

Posted by: Didn't speak a word of Swedish until I was 13 years old | May 26, 2005 02:50 PM

Seems Eduardo was correct in many of his observations

Posted by: Hohhoijaa | May 26, 2005 03:08 PM

Just a comment about the lack of really good universities in Finland.
I don't know about other fields, but Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands together produce AS MUCH good-quality medical research as the US, with a fraction of the number of doctors, Ph.D. students and labs as there are in the US...

Posted by: Hanna | May 26, 2005 03:20 PM

I am a new reader to this blog and have never visited Finland, and having skimmed through some of the comments to the entries I would be interested in learning how the debate about Swedish language instruction shows in everyday life in Finland. Are there street protests? Do people remove their children from Swedish courses, like some American parents remove their kids from biology classes with evolution science? Is there violence between the two ethnic groups?

Posted by: Ann | May 26, 2005 04:12 PM

In response to the comment above by Ann.

As a Finn, I find your questions amusingly absurd. There is no violence between Finland's Swedes and the Finns, there are no street protests and hardly anyone would think of removing their children from Swedish class.

Finland's Swedes make up 6% of the population and are generally wealthy due to inherited wealth and connections. Most belong to the upper-middle class and are educated. The 6% have influence in society well over their "quota".

Posted by: Inkeri | May 26, 2005 05:36 PM

Dear Inkeri, my questions were based on what I was reading in these comments, esp. in the blog entries about education. It seems there is a great deal of hostility and some of the posters were making comparisons between abolitionism and racism in the United States, back when schools were segregated. I am a little offended that you are calling me absurd, when such comparisons readily bring to mind the civil rights movement and violence and protests that are part of our history. If these comparisons are completely without basis in reality, then surely it is not I who am being absurd but the posters who feel that Finnish is to Swedish as African-American is to white American?

Posted by: Ann | May 26, 2005 06:24 PM

Ann,
Like has been brought up by others, those ranting about swedish elites stomping on the rights of finnish majority are bigots. Taking them too seriously is like thinking the KKK would be a major force in USA.

Unfortunately it is the nature of internet that it easily brings out the extremists on all arguments, while the moderate, intelligent people prefer to rather stay silent than get dragged in to debating with fanatics. I'm sure this phenomenon is familiar to you, in a form or another. I'm ashamed that these people, on both sides of the flaming, give a such bad picture of our nation.

Most of the fervent posting has been made by finnish-speaking extremists, most likely only one or maybe two persons masquerading as many. However, to be neutral, there are extremists on the swedish-speaking side too, whose opinions fuel the flames of the fanatics on the opposite side.

Overall the situation is very peaceful. I have never heard of any violent confrontations or any real 'racism' either.

Well, what about my own opinion?
I think it is foolish that kids are forced to study swedish - why not let them choose what language to learn, besides english? Learning english should be necessary, as it is the only real 'common language' in the world right now, whether you like it or not. The anglosaxon culture is a such dominant force.

However, I think Finland should stay bilingual and care for the rights of her minorities. I'm sure plenty of people would still continue to study swedish.

It is true that the Swedish Peoples Party is in every goverment, no matter what other parties form it. This is very simply caused by nature of their politics - all they demand is that kids need to learn swedish in schools and that the minority they represent keep their rights. Unfortunately this means that the compulsive swedish will stay in the finnish school system for years to come. All in all, there is very little difference between swedish- and finnish-speaking finns.

I wonder what the extremists will do once the russian minority starts getting so large, that it should be given the same rights as to the swedish-speaking minority? Maybe the extremists of both sides of the old language debate will unite in their xenophobia towards russians.

Posted by: Observer | May 26, 2005 07:07 PM

Ann,
I'll continue my previous post-

To understand the hatred of the extremists who preach against the swedish-speaking minority...and the arrogance of the extremists on the swedish-speaking side.. You have to understand the history of Finland.

Finland was conquered and colonized by Swedish king in the medieval times, claiming it to be a crusade - the reasons were really greed and geopolitics. After that, Finland was part of Sweden for hundreds of years, untill the defeat of Napoleon. During that time, swedish nobles ruled the land and to advance in life, such as succeed as a trader or become a bureacrat or an officer, finns needed to speak swedish.

This has left certian resentment towards swedes and the swedish-speaking finns in the small group of extremists. It is hard to understand unless you come from a country that has been colonized by outside forces for a long time. I'm sure African or South American people could understand it. Are people in southern states of the US still bitter to "Yankees" about Civil War? I'm sure there must be a handful of people who are? Well, that is pretty much the case with swedish-speaking finns and the extremists who think they are the source of all evil. Exchange swedish-speaking finn with yankee and you got the picture.

Posted by: Observer | May 26, 2005 07:24 PM

Dear Ann,

in the early parts of the 20th century in Finland there was a period of civil unrest and great open hostility between the Finnish and Swedish-speaking camps. After Finland gained its independence from Russia in 1917, (followed by a Civil War between leftists and the right) movements that aimed to strengthen the Finnish identity by obliterating its old ruling classes came into force. People who were suspected of being Russian-minded were ousted out of the country (or, in the case of the lost leftists in the Civil War, imprisoned and executed.) Swedish-speaking people felt the pressure to forego their Swedish surnames and change them to Finnish ones, parents to stop speaking Swedish to their children etc.
This is partly why the Swedish-speaking part of the population is still so keen on holding on to their rights as a minority language.
Because of these rights and a lingering sense of upperclass, many Finns resent them. (Ironically, the Swedish-speaking Finns and Finnish extremists shared sides in the Civil War, both were against Russia and Socialism.)
In reality, the Finnish-Swedish population is largely stemming from regular farmfolk that settled on the coasts in Finland hundreds if not a thousand years ago, and the small Swedish urban upperclass is really a minority within a minority. It's enough though to keep the myth alive.
Personally, as a Finn-Swede, I've been called names and teased for speaking Swedish, but have also enjoyed the right to be educated in both my native tongues. Growing up, we certainly were a part of lower middle-class.
I think the comparison to the situation in America would be more along the lines of comparing the Finn-Swedes to the Jews in America rather than to the Civil Movement and white supremists. At least the old myth of Jews controlling the market, banks, the universities, Hollywood, is similar to the myth of Finn-Swedes still being in control in Finland. My family certainly never was, I have no inheritance in store, no old nobility hidden in my closet :)

Posted by: A point of view | May 26, 2005 09:06 PM

Oh, and still to answer your question, Ann, the debate about Swedish language instruction is one that goes on in the Parliament and the op-ed articles and write-ins to newspapers, not in open street demonstrations. It's very civil, part from the bathroom graffiti in university stalls which are very anti-Swedish. Mostly, the general dislike of the Swedish instruction in schools come across as an apathy to learning it (a lack of motivation), and when possible, postponing Swedish-language instruction in favor of a more useful language.
The Swedish Folk Party has successfully blocked any attempts to decrease on the Swedish-language instruction, along the "slippery slope" logic, don't give in an inch or you'll loose the whole cause. The motivation is in Swedish-speaking people having the right to be served in their native language in the public facilities of courts, hospitals etc. , forcing Finns who work in these to pass a rudimentary test in Swedish. In practice, most Swedish-speaking Finns forego this right, and most Finns would rather speak English than Swedish if given the choice..

Posted by: Another point from a point of view | May 26, 2005 09:30 PM

First of all, I have to tell you how much I enjoy your diary which I discovered only yesterday.
I am finn who lived abroad for 15 years and returned because I wanted my daughter to have same kind of childhood and education as I did. Last night I discussed with a friend of mine, who has same kind of backgroung as I, about women in Finland, education, kids nowadays etc., due reading this diary.
She confirmed one thing I've been talking a lot lately, namely my opion of the place we live (Toijala, small place near Tampere) and what a good place it is to live if you have kids. (lived somewhere else for awhile and returned here, main reason being the pressure from my daughter).
Ok, kindergartens and schools are excellent even compared with finnish standards, but one thing I really would like to point out. The youngsters themselves.
Now that we have lots of teenagers with various backgrounds hanging about the house, I cannot but be impressed how they are, and believe that when they are my age, finnish society will be rather different in positive way. More open, social and tolerant.
Couple of years ago a youth center was opened and it is unbelievable what kinds of activities kids themselves have arranged with the support of municipal. From pancakes and homework afternoons to few days camps. Center is open every evening until 8 and they figure out all kinds of things to do.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is, that even though the standard of teachers is high and the system in general good, I still think it is the kids themselves. Compared with many countiries finns learn to be quite independent from early age on.
Also, that it would be worth while to get in contact with average finnish kids, not specially talented or anything like that.

Posted by: Tiina | May 27, 2005 02:15 AM

Concerning PISA-survey and "mono-culture."

There were minority schools in the random sample! They did worse results than other schools.

Therefore there are quotas for the Swedish minority at the higher education (university)level. In terms of PISA-survey they are still needed long time ahead.

As fas as I know there are quotas for the minorities in the States,too? So they have to be familiar for the Americans what it is all about.

Posted by: Pekka | May 27, 2005 04:10 AM

Observer claimed that Finland was conquered and colonized by a Swedish king in the medieval times. We all learn in our history classes that the king, St. Eric, led a crusade in 1155, where the English-born bishop St. Henry participated, in order to baptize the Finnish nation. Yet historians have debated this conclusion. The crusade is a legend of the Catholic Church but some historians have argued that Finland was not colonized in one fell swoop. The process of Finland becoming a part of Sweden during the Medieval times can have been far more peaceful and gradual (even a natural result of close trade relations). That the crusade really happened can't be proven as a fact. Whereas I think that Swedish historians generally agree that St. Eric existed and was slain by the Danes in 1160, it is much less clear whether the crusade to Finland ever happened and whether St. Henry (Catholic patron saint of Finland) ever even existed or was slain by a Finnish peasant in 1156. Much of such early history of Sweden is the stuff of legends written a couple of centuries later and Medieval writers often had other objectives than accuracy.

Posted by: Topi L | May 27, 2005 05:21 AM

It is always interesting to read what Finns think they know about America and the American educational system in particular.

A few comments:

1- Each state in the U.S. has its own educational system. In some states, each school district sets its own standards. Some schools in the U.S. are good schools and some are poor schools. To say that a person knows all about the American school system after living even 20 years in the U.S. is a very funny idea. Americans can learn much from the Finnish school system but it important to remember that not all ideas and methods are easily taken from one culture to another. I would hope the Finns feel the same way.

2- I have been to Finland three times (seven weeks total) and one of the things I have noticed is the large number of book stores all over the country. I have spent a lot of time and money buying Finnish history books in these stores. I think it is a great part of the Finnish educational culture and hope you write a story about it!

3- Thank you for the articles!!!

Posted by: Finnish American | May 27, 2005 05:47 AM

Just to be precise...

Actually there was quite a street protest against "the other domestic language test" (Swedish for Finnish speakers; Finnish for Sweedish speakers), which was a compulsory part of the high school graduation exams (aka the Finnish Matriculation Examination) (except in some high schools where the government tested how a more liberal examination would work). I guess the protesters were Finnish speakers, and I remember being there protesting, too...
But I believe in organizing the Swedish speakers' health care etc. in their mothertongue, and unless someone discovers how to do it without teaching Swedish in our schools, I am pro- Swedish lessons.

Nowadays (from this year on) the other domestic language test is optional, and in the following years the examination is to undergo other radical changes not related to the language debate.

(From the website of the Finnish Broadcasting Corproation:
About the protests, in Finnish: http://www.yle.fi/uutiset/haku.php?action=page&id=162669&search=lukiolaisten
About removing the Swedish test, in English: http://www.yle.fi/uutiset/haku.php?action=page&id=167897&search=matriculation )

I've never heard of any parents removing their kids from Swedish classes, though. And Ann, I think it's really great that you're interested in Finland! :) If something makes you wonder, go on asking questions!

Posted by: Didn't speak a word... etc | May 27, 2005 06:18 AM

By "removing the Swedish test" I naturally meant "removing 'the Swedish test for Finnish speakers' and 'the Finnish test for Swedish speakers'". But they have made almost the same mistake in the broadcasting corporation, so...

Posted by: Didn't... etc | May 27, 2005 06:22 AM

TopiL,
Yes, you are mostly likely correct. I was simplifying things to make them easier to catch. However, what comes to the religious side of things, I'm sure it had some amount of influence on the swedish annexation of Finland. The catholic and orthodox church at the time were racing to convert the pagans between their zones of influence - I'm sure the Catholic Church had its hand in supporting the swedes to conquer and convert Finns.

Whether the turning of Finland in to a part of Sweden was a conquest or not is a matter of semantics. Perhaps a better word would be colonization - after all, there was no organized finnish state to resist the swedes, nor real war that happened, other than some minor skirmishes. However, it is clear that Finland was ruled by the swedish for centuries after and the elite was composed of swedish. I think that is usually the sign of conquest or colonization.

Posted by: Observer | May 27, 2005 06:32 AM

I think, Ann, that for a Finn the absurdity lies even in the concept of "going protest on the streets". You think of something like in LA riots, whereas we think of a few people with signs on a street... And its really very few people that even bother. Finns are sort of apathetic and peaceful in the sense we seldom have mob rioting. There have been a few cases; but even what happened at the Presidential Palace 6.12. last year... is nothing compared to say Gothenburg summit riots - and Sweden is just next door. We do have violence and people get violent, but getting "heated up" is more concern "what would the neigbours say". And Finn have this respect of authority thing so taking your kid out of school would quite... hrm... drastic?

Posted by: Hank W. | May 27, 2005 09:39 AM


Why are some americans here trying to make Finland look bad?
Are you jealous or what because we Finns are proud of ourselves? Well, it seems so..

Posted by: tiina | May 27, 2005 11:22 AM

Finnish school system must be the worst among the industrialized countries. Todays Helsingin sanomat says, only 33% of students finishes university in 5.5 years.
To get to university, some try 3-4 years in a row, do nothing but study for most of the year, then get in or give up.
But it is not the same to all:
The swedish speaking students do get in easily. Finns go to trade schools. They go to universities as they have a lot more places than the finnish speaking.

Posted by: School system | May 27, 2005 12:34 PM

"Why are some americans here trying to make Finland look bad?" Tiina, dear. You are seeing something I don´t see.

And you, school system. Weren´t your Swedish/Finnish language rants enough? It is no wonder university studies take more than 5,5 years, and it has nothing to do with school system. People do work, have children and so on, they don´t study full-time, so it takes time. Also in many fields that 5,5 years is impossible, even full-time.

"Finns go to trade schools." Sure, and also universities. Pay a little visit to the nearest university and listen to what language people speak.

Posted by: E | May 27, 2005 02:56 PM

"comparison to the situation in America would be more along the lines of comparing the Finn-Swedes to the Jews in America rather than to the Civil Movement and white supremists. At least the old myth of Jews controlling the market, banks, the universities, Hollywood, is similar to the myth of Finn-Swedes still being in control in Finland. "

Well that is not only a little bit far-fetched.

Do the americans all have to learn about the Jewish culture and learn their language (or be thrown off school?)

Finns are still scared of the swedes (and viking) and do as they say. It is in the national psyche, politicians bow to them.

(Widely reported in media:)
When Adolf Hitler found Jews to be a lesser race, at the same time the Swedes found Finns (among others) to be a lesser race and themselves to be 100% aryan.
That was the official state line, the hatred coming from their most prestigious academics.

After the war they changed their mind and started calling Finns criminals (also locking up countless innocent Finns) and savages, but not a lessed race anymore. Speaking of Finnish on public places, such as schools, was forbidden. That was widely supported by the populace.

Before world wars the Swedes had occupied the whole country of Finland. Finns had to pay lots of tax and give lots of men for the king, to die in battlefields of europe. Lots of the noble men that came from Sweden, to raided land, were murderers etc.

Before the country existed, the viking made raids, robbing, stealing, raping.

There still lives descendants of the viking in Finland. Lots of the people of Åland, the island between Finland and Sweden you can see if take a ferry between the countries, which pretty much lives by selling tax-free alcohol on the ferries mostly owned by them (called viking and silja line) used to be pirates who lived by raiding passing ships.

Posted by: Sad truth | May 28, 2005 04:22 AM

""Finns go to trade schools." Sure, and also universities. Pay a little visit to the nearest university and listen to what language people speak."

Most Swedes in Finland go to universities. Only a small portion of Finns go as there are no places. Quite a lot of places for the swedish:

http://www.abo.fi/
http://www.helsinki.fi/universitetet/
http://www.hanken.fi/hanken/sve/index.php

Posted by: | May 28, 2005 04:26 AM

http://www.suomalaisuudenliitto.fi/juttu4.htm
There being more places for the swedes is also against the law.
Alas, in Finland, the government does not have to follow its laws anymore than in the Soviet Union.

Posted by: | May 28, 2005 04:28 AM

Who voted for the language law ?

http://www.aamulehti.fi/lavajarvi/vieraskirja/

Posted by: Language law | May 28, 2005 06:09 AM

"I knew this blog would reach similar proportions as the famous (well, at least in Finland it is famous) "Conan O'Brian hates my home land" incident. We Finns started to send postcards to poor Conan well before he had made any insults on Finland, which of course prompted him to insult us for this stupidity (and rightly so)."

Stupidity? Think that rather showed good sense of humour? At least I thought so.

But it was taken too far when topics about Finland on NBC message board were banned after a week or two. *thumbs up*

Posted by: r2d2 m2u2 | May 28, 2005 06:18 PM

I went at a vocational school and all we had to study Swedish allthought everyone wanted to study English.

The municipality where the vocational school is Finnish as +90% of the municipalities in Finland.

I have had no use of Swedish here.
The state expects me and us to move potentially to Sweden or Aland?

It is still like that in every vocational school. All students have to attend on mandatory Swedish classes allthought no one needs Swedish. Speak of a high class vocational school system:(

Posted by: Cruel fact | May 30, 2005 05:05 AM

But it was taken too far when topics about Finland on NBC message board were banned after a week or two. *thumbs up*
--
Well, (just read the boards/read the talk about those matters) there was the sign "sweden sucks" so there is an obvious reason for the banning - swedes started to say their americans and started to be "pissed off" by the finns' presence in the boards. Americans (or whoever kept the boards) did not realize that. In such boards, often more than half the people are from abroad.

Posted by: | May 30, 2005 07:12 AM

"Are people in southern states of the US still bitter to "Yankees" about Civil War? I'm sure there must be a handful of people who are? Well, that is pretty much the case with swedish-speaking finns and the extremists who think they are the source of all evil. Exchange swedish-speaking finn with yankee and you got the picture."
--
Well if you have to use that analogy:
The north won there. Here, the south won. The slaves (finns) were not freed.

Posted by: | May 30, 2005 07:17 AM

""It's very civil, part from the bathroom graffiti in university stalls which are very anti-Swedish.""

Civil ?
Go to a swedish-speaking town in finland, speak finnish too loud during the evening and wonder why the gang came and beat you up. Or try to find work in one, if you have a finnish name.

"I've never met or heard of an American high-school graduate, who really can communicate in another language than English."
--
The Finnish high-schools are supposed to be somewhere between the american private schools and the american public schools, not as good as the private, not as bad as the public. Have no experience of any of them myself, only what I have heard.

"Now take Sweden, which has Malmo, a majority minority city that is in utter chaos. Gang rape of Swedish girls by minority boys and men who are taught that Swedish (or German, or English , or Dutch or whatever) girls are whores."
--
Swedish culture derives from the viking culture. Many of the minorities' cultures are such that rape is not even thought of. Yet the minorities are blamed and locked up.

""Copies of old exams are available in the department offices. And the new exams tend to repeat the same questions as the old ones."

Sure, if you go through enough old tests, they are bound to include questions on the same topics (or even the same questio""

It used to be compared to Japan, that there too, very hard to get into uni, but after you get in, no more problems for the next couple of years.

Posted by: | May 30, 2005 07:30 AM

Third absurd comparison I seen here so far:
"those ranting about swedish elites stomping on the rights of finnish majority are bigots. Taking them too seriously is like thinking the KKK would be a major force in USA"

Reality-check:
If the KKK was a major, german-speaking force, all americans would have to speak german (no offence to germans intended, long ago, everywhere in the world the nazi ideas were in place, germans had bad luck to be the first to incorporate them into their state - Swedes were never invaded despite the same kind of ideas about finns, gypsies, lapps that the germans had about the jews)


"European border with Russia, fought off the Russians , never was occupied them,"

Reasons for non-occupation:
land-ownership, many finns own land, to own land = want to keep it
weather = russian soldiers were not equipped enough
religion = too much of it in finland, "i'll go die and end up in heaven", saved the country


"Finnish-Canadian and who does not get plastered every night after work"

Read on a newspaper, Finns who long ago moved into Canada, had to take Swedish names in order not to be viewed badly by the Swedes and the others who believed what the Swedes had told about the Finns. One of them was an ancestor of Pamela Anderson.

Posted by: | May 30, 2005 07:43 AM

Just as Finns envy successful businessmen (can you name any other country in which you can purchase your neighbor's gross income from the previous fiscal year as a text message to your cell phone?)

Posted by: | May 30, 2005 07:47 AM

"(can you name any other country in which you can purchase your neighbor's gross income from the previous fiscal year as a text message to your cell phone?)"

Posted by: | May 30, 2005 09:15 AM

First of all I would like to comment on this whole swedish-finn debate. Most of the comments are balantly racist. First of all, not all swedish-finns have alot of money, hate finns and study. Just like not all finns are vice versa.

But the main thing I would like to comment on is how the finnish education system is viwed as the best one in the whole world. Ok, PISA results do say something, but not everything. What PISA misses is how the students feel in school. The finish children aged 13-15 are the most depressed in THE WHOLE WORLD! Suicide rates are extremly high and finnish children also bully alot. While the finnish education system might teach you much it isn't at all good for the children. It breaks them down and stresses them out. The enviroment in finnish schools is BAD!

I guess what I'm trying to say with this is; don't stare yourself blind on PISA results, there are many much more important things to look at.

jacob.bostrom (at) gmail.com

Posted by: Jacob Boström | May 30, 2005 10:42 AM

Someone claimed in Finnish school books there was soviet propaganda. Not so. There was and is compulsary religion and swedish in schools. No soviet propaganda. What should be noted was that english books included "here in a trailer lives a poor..", whereas swedish books had a very positive view of the swedish society (well, almost only people with no housing are finns there, as the state officials do not like finns that much; used to be in finland, too, the swedish model was used: homeless were locked up, police station or nuthouse& be drugged to death (as homeless is of course crazy, when the social office does not give money to rent a house, like the law says it should), nowadays (well, as ever, as some made huts in the forests, new ones do not know how to build such) they can freeze to death, there probably are not many homeless in alaska either :(

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 08:41 AM

finnish children also bully alot. While the finnish education system might teach you much it isn't at all good for the children. It breaks them down and stresses them out. The enviroment in finnish schools is BAD!
--
True. As for bullying - teachers do not care to watch over the children at all during the 15 minute breaks between the lessons. They really should employ guards, to make sure the kids behave even a bit. There is a kind of jail-athmosphere in many schools because the teachers dont give a .... about the children.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 08:47 AM

"There is a kind of jail-athmosphere in many schools" Would you care to name one school with jail atmosphere?

Posted by: E | May 31, 2005 11:10 AM

Marie wrote: "If the Swedes, Finns and Canadians woke up one day and there was no America armed to the hilt, they'd have to do it themselves, and this would cost them money!"

You are right in that Finland is not armed to the hilt, and has never been, but I don't remember us Finns having ever needed "America armed to the hilt" to defend us. On the contrary, we have fought very severely against your dear ally, the Russians, who were armed to the hilt with American airplanes, armored fighting vehicles, transport vehicles and food, supplied to them free of charge to facilitate their efforts to conquer Finland. Of course they failed in their "Great Patriotic War" as fas as Finland is concerned.

But we have fought all of Sweden's wars for them thoughout history, "to the last Finn". The wars usually ended in this corner of the world, when the Finnish troops were used up (Finland belonged to Sweden until 1809).

Posted by: Lappalainen | May 31, 2005 12:26 PM

The greatest taboo in Finland is the controversy of the official position of and the mandatory teaching of the Swedish language, which is spoken only by some 5 % of Finland's population (they call themselves Finland's Swedes and they are actally bi-lingual, and can and do also speak Finnish in their daily life).

There have been several surveys where constantly approx. 70 % of all Finns want to end the mandatory Swedish teaching (because it is totally unnecessary and only wastes the resources of the Finns).

And a growing number of Finns (now about 50 %) want to end the official position (officially equal to the Finnish language!) of the Swedish language.

These surveys are not published in mass media (including the Finnish Broadcasting Company and the biggest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat), because it is controlled by the Swedes (who have a lot of money, as they have been the educated elite of this country for centuries).

Now these problems are finally being surfaced thanks to internet, which the Swedes cannot control. And the Swedes are horrified: they realize that soon they will loose all their privilegiums that they have had based on their language only, most of all their high quotas at the university gates. And they will loose their easy jobs in government and municipal offices, where all they have had to do is transfer Swedish documents from one bin to another and to translate Finnish documents to Swedish.

Can you imagine, that a Finn cannot become a civil servant in Finland if he is not able to speak Swedish? And Swedish is the only mandatory language in Finnish schools, for everybody. English is not! (However, nobody speaks Swedish, I wonder why...)

Tar and feathers will probably be used in massive quantities, when the fragile Swedish dam finally breaks.

Just think how well we could have done in PISA without the extra burden of one unnecessary language! And what else we could learn without it eating our limited resources!

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 01:23 PM

Teachers are usually highly respected. The main exception is the swedish teachers, called forced-swedish teachers (and many, much yglier names), who soon no longer have the courage to come to schools.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 01:44 PM


Sweden had interesting ways of participating in World War II.

Allied bombers flying out of Britain suffered great losses in trying to destroy the Nazi's metal factories in Schweinfurt. Their prime target was machine parts production, particularly ball bearings.

Sweden responded by helping the Nazis. Sweden sent replacement ball bearings and metal materiel to Germany, to help Hitler's Nazis.

A large jewelry collection was made from the Finnish population in World War II. The money was supposed to be for buying combat equipment for Finland's defense. Many Finnish families donated priceless family heirloom jewelry, at collection points set up throughout the country. The money disappeared into Sweden and hasn't been seen since.

Sweden has hurt Finland in the past and some mad Swedes are today hurting Finland by bribing and threatening Finnish officials to impose policies of apartheid and Swedification.

Posted by: More history | May 31, 2005 02:11 PM


"Sweden was Nazi Germany's largest trading partner during the war and almost the sole source of high-grade iron ore and precision ball bearings for the German war machine. Imports of the latter from Sweden were especially important following the destruction of the VKF ball bearing plant (itself Swedish-owned) at Schweinfurt by the US Eighth Air Force in August and October 1943..."

"During the attacks on the ballbearing plants at Schweinfurt, the British bought the Swedish SKF ballbearings to avoid the export to Germany. The bearing could not be transported to England, so they were stored - AND the Swedish sold english owned ballbearing from the store to Germany."

Posted by: More history | May 31, 2005 02:25 PM

I think the half of the discussion in this particulra blog related to education has gone on side-track. I think the language issue in Finland is marginal and talking about is rather pointless and at least to me, really boring. It really does not affect everyday life of 99% of the population anyway. Even for those people burdened with having to learn swedish at school I can only say it is a minor distraction and can be considered as part of the all-around education in a same way as latin in many other European countries. Actually I think it would be good to have more latin at the finnish schools as it adds to the all-around education and a good base for studying romanic languages such as french and spanish. And this is a comment from a finnish speaking finn.

In terms of the higher education in Finland I have a couple of comments. First, the good thing in the Finnish university system is the emphasis on learning instead of attendance. The finnish system is based on student's own willingness to learn and so it is up to each student, not the university, to keep the personal standards high.

On the other hand, with the current state of the Finnish university system, this freedom poses a problem and this has probably something to do with the comment that Eduardo gave earlier. The present system awards universities for degrees more than having a high standards in education. In other words there is too much emphasis on quantity instead of quality, although the quality is quite good still. The other problem is the fact that people value too much higher education instead of vocational education and there is a danger that in the future almost every young person in Finland has a university degree but no job at the same time when there is a shortage of people with hands-on skills. Even today I think a good plummer makes more money than most of the people with academic education.
So basically you can get a very good higher education in Finland if you are willing to invest your time and effort in it (as the quality of teaching is good) but at the same time it seems that it is also becoming easier and easier to get a university degree with less effort. Of course the situation can be the same in other coutries, too.

Posted by: To the real issues | June 1, 2005 03:51 AM

"I think the language issue in Finland is marginal and talking about is rather pointless and at least to me, really boring."

Well, I think quite contrary. I think that force-swedish is the biggest and most unnecessary burden keeping Finnish school children down, and at the same time, also the Finnish competitiveness in world trade.

The force-sweding system of Finland is only needed by the Swedes (for the above mentioned purpose and) to generate easy and well-paid, but totally unnecessary jobs for them "for official needs".

The bi-lingualism of Finland is even more stupid, a remnant from the civil war, when the Swedes were on the winning side and had smoking guns in their hands.

And the big quotas in Finnish universities for the Swedes is totally unfair and therefore unacceptable.

This is a major issue in Finnish democracy and equality. And now that it has been brought into daylight, the Finns don't rest, until it is solved, either peacefully or otherwise.

Most of the politicians have not yet realized this. They still think that they can freely do "cow-trading" with the Swedes using the Finnish language as their paying medium. They are in for a big surprice.

Posted by: Guerilla | June 1, 2005 04:16 AM

" the Finns don't rest, until it is solved, either peacefully or otherwise."

What are you hinting at? A civil war?

Posted by: Urja | June 1, 2005 05:15 AM

"Even today I think a good plummer makes more money than most of the people with academic education. "
Select a bad subject in trade school = never find work. Select a good - find shitty work.

Select a bad subject in uni - find only nice office jobs (but still something like the medium pay)
Select a good subject in uni - get lots of pay, still no shitty work.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 06:45 AM

There are statements that Finland is actually in the revolution state because the sovereignity of the country has been ceased due to the membership of EU. This is much more bigger problem for Finland in the future than the Swedish speaking minority. A lawyer could translate a part of the below law text. This means that Finland is very divided nation while some 55 % of the folks opposes the EU-membership and the higher taxes and prices which come along the membership. This nation would prefer to join in the United States than European Union.

Maamme alistaminen vieraiden valtojen ja sotilasliittojen alaisuuteen ei siis ole pelkästään poliittisesti turhaa, taloudellisesti kallista ja turvallisuuden kannalta vaarallista, vaan myöskin vastoin lakia.

1 § 21.4.1995/578
Suomen itsemääräämisoikeuden vaarantaminen.

Joka tarkoituksenaan väkivaltaa käyttämällä tai sillä uhkaamalla taikka vieraan valtion sotilaallisen tai taloudellisen painostuksen tai tuen avulla

1. saattaa Suomi tai osa Suomea vieraan valtion alaiseksi,

2. irrottaa osa Suomea muusta valtakunnasta tai

3. muulla vakavuudeltaan näihin rinnastettavalla tavalla rajoittaa Suomen valtiollista itsemääräämisoikeutta tekee teon, josta aiheutuu sanotun tarkoituksen toteutumisen vaara, on tuomittava Suomen itsemääräämisoikeuden vaarantamisesta vankeuteen vähintään yhdeksi ja enintään kymmeneksi vuodeksi.

2 § (21.4.1995/578) Sotaan yllyttäminen. Jos joku Suomessa tai Suomen kansalainen Suomen ulkopuolella Suomea koskevan sotilaallisen tai kansainvälisen poliittisen kriisin aikana tai sellaisen välittömästi uhatessa, tarkoituksenaan saattaa Suomi sotaan tai sotatoimen kohteeksi,

1. julkisesti kehottaa vierasta valtiota hyökkäystekoon Suomea vastaan tai

2.Suomea hyökkäystekoon vierasta valtiota vastaan,

3.julkisesti levittää lausumia tai muita ilmaisuja, joiden tarkoituksena on vaikuttaa yleisen mielipiteen kehittymiseen hyökkäystekojen käyttöä puoltavaksi,

4.järjestelmällisesti levittää ilmeisen perättömiä tai harhaanjohtavia tietoja Suomen puolustuksesta tai sotilas- tai puolustuspoliittisista aikomuksista taikka
oikeudettomasti suorittaa vieraaseen valtioon, sen edustajaan, alueeseen tai omaisuuteen kohdistuvan väkivaltaisen teon
siten, että teko selvästi lisää Suomen sotaan tai sotatoimen kohteeksi joutumisen vaaraa, hänet on tuomittava sotaan yllyttämisestä vankeuteen vähintään yhdeksi ja enintään kymmeneksi vuodeksi.

3 § käsittelee sodan aikana tapahtuneita maanpetosrikoksia.

4 § (21.4.1995/578) Törkeä maanpetos.

Jos maanpetoksessa

1. aiheutetaan vaara valtakunnan tai sen osan joutumisesta vieraan vallan alaiseksi tai

2. muuten aiheutetaan Suomelle erityisen suurta vahinkoa

ja maanpetos on myös kokonaisuutena arvostellen törkeä, rikoksentekijä on tuomittava törkeästä maanpetoksesta vankeuteen vähintään neljäksi vuodeksi tai elinkaudeksi.

Posted by: A Finnis law case | June 1, 2005 07:09 AM

"What are you hinting at? A civil war?"

Draw your own conclusions. There are still some unfinished business left over from the last civil war, like the shooting of finnish-speaking prisoners by travelling Swedish execution groups on many prison camps after the civil war, and prisoners were killed for long into the twenties, until the League of Nations (UN's predecessor) started to ask questions.

There are documented cases, where a prisoner that could speak Swedish, was removed from prisoner group to be executed.

And we should give you services in your own language!?!?! Wake up, it is 21st century now! And we haven't even heard an apology yet. Just more demands.

Maybe a full civil war is not needed, but perhaps a general merry tar and feather party will be in place, untill you and your Swedish People's Party realize that this is not a joke.

Posted by: Guerilla | June 1, 2005 07:21 AM

I have been living in Finland now (Helsinki) with my wife for 4.5 years (she's Finnish native) and love it as each day is a new challenge. I also do volunteer work with an assocation in Finland name IESAF ru (http://www.iesaf.fi). Its a great way to meet other expats / other non-native / native Finnish people and is a fabulous source pool of information for non-natives to get those hard asked questions answered properly. And its a great way to meet other people that may be sharing the similar issues you are. ;)

check it out!! ..

Posted by: Rob Sramek | June 1, 2005 08:04 AM

Having glanced over some of the comments, I find it amazing how strong passions Finland arouses!

Some wrote that the minorities are invisible in Finland. Being a member of a minority, Jewish, with a husband who is twice a minority, an American and Jewish, I think I can tell there are minorities. I also have family friends from the Tatar community, who is Muslim.

There are about 10 000 Romanis (called Gypsies in the message) living in Finland and some 3 000 Finnish Romanis living in Sweden. They are indeed counted in the census, but it is impossible to know their numbers exactly, because they do not differ from the majority by religion or language - very few speak romani language. Unfortunately their migrant life style used to cause children not getting education, but there are efforts to change the attitudes of the parents. When they take up their traditional outfits as teenagers - not when they marry - they are visible from the rest of the Finns.

On the other hand, comparing to their numbers, Finnish Jews are quite visible: Max Jakobson, former Finnish ambassodor to the UN, Ben Zyskowicz MP, artists Sam Vanni, Rafael Wardi, Daniel Katz, Marion Rung, TV personalities Ruben Stiller, Ben Furman etc.

Somebody wrote that Finns were quite illiterate until the WW II - not quite true. Since the Reformation in the 16th century the Church required reading skills as a requirement for marriage both for men and women. Traditionally the higher education was respected, but not regarded necessary in the countryside where there was employment available in the farm. The cultural attitudes and the parents' expectations influence a lot how education is regarded.

My son goes to the Jewish School - only one in Finland. The school is private, but part of the Finnish school system. We do not pay any tuition. The city pays the Jewish congregation an amount per student it spends per student in a city school. The school is of course more expensive, having some 100 students in 9 grades, extra subjects (not covered by the city) and kosher kitchen. This difference is paid by the Congregation, who gets the money as memberships dues or taxes based on taxable income. The registered religious communities have a right to receive information about their members' taxable income and collect "taxes", which for Jewish Congregation members is twice the amount the members of the Lutheran Church pay. So members of the Congregation are willing to pay for the school - also for the kindergarten. The school spends also more money to teach the children with different languages - the children have 9 home languages. During the past 4 years the Jewish School's 9th graders (15 year olds, the last class) have participated in national tests. In English their results were 18% higher than the average in the country, in math 23% higher, in Finnish language and literature 7 % higher and in Swedish, that hated language, 39% higher - 61% higher in spoken Swedish. And Swedish is the mother tongue of only some students... The most common home languages after Finnish is Russian and Hebrew. The motivation for studying was also clearly higher than average. The school does not have high school classes, so the students have to prepare to move to the "outside" world, to regular high schools. The success has a lot to do with the attitudes the parents give to their children.

Thank you for interesting articles! One comment to Mr. Kaiser: Do you think that an American farmer's teenager son in Iowa, when stopped by foreign journalists and interviewing him, say in French, would be shy?

Posted by: Pirkko-Liisa Schulman | June 1, 2005 12:13 PM

Guerrilla, I have no idea what you're talking about.

There are no such things as "documented cases, where a prisoner that could speak Swedish, was removed from prisoner group to be executed".

If there were ones, it would be publicly known in Finland.

Of course, I'll let you prove your statements.

But please, no links to Finnish Alliance (Suomalaisuuden liitto) pages, or any other extremist pages.

Posted by: Urja | June 2, 2005 01:47 PM

Suomalaisuuden liitto is not extremist.
In any country, those demanding others be forced study some needless language, such as swedish, would be considered extremist, not those who oppose that.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 08:28 AM

Those who attack other people based on language religion or race are by definition extremists. Nuff said

Posted by: Jacob Boström | June 3, 2005 11:53 AM

Jacob Boström: "Those who attack other people based on language religion or race are by definition extremists. Nuff said"

Hopw do you call a person, who fights against racial extremists? Is it not so that Swedish Party in Finland is extremist, by your own definition? Then, should we just let them be, or should we stop such nazionalism and demand Swedish-speakers also be good Finns.

Posted by: LanguageWarrior | June 3, 2005 12:20 PM

Have you heard about the demonstration against the language law in early 2003?

Suomalaisuuden liitto organized a big demonstration to the front of the parliament house in Helsinki. The day was the 28th of February, day of Finnish Culture and Kalevala.

Representatives of the Finnish media were all there. There were six demonstrators, all of them actives of Suomalaisuuden liitto.

They deduced it was a bad day. They looked up the calendar and saw the 6th of November would be a good day, the Day of Swedishness. They spreaded the word through all the internet message boards in Finland. They had a pdf poster to print. Now it can't go wrong. The result: No demonstrators at all. Nada. None.

After that, they have said a demonstration is not a civilized way to solve things. It is more important to write hate messages in the internet with as many names as possible.

Oh, and they had a petition of obligatory Swedish. 8,000 names (not as many persons) had said their opinion about education. They sent the petion to the Finnish ministry of judgment. It has not been heard of since.

The Swedish-haters are only couple of kids and some bitter old men of Suomalaisuuden liitto and you can always get a few laughs about their fanatism.

Posted by: Urja | June 3, 2005 01:55 PM

"Finnish educational system it might be good to compare it to the systems in the other Nordic countries. Having gotten my education in Finland and having seen some of the systems in Sweden and Norway, I feel that one reason for Finlands success is that the main emphasis in Finland is that a pupil is in school to learn, to get an education. Strangely the emphasis is the other Nordic countries is more on that students should enjoy themselves and become well integrated members of society. While this is certainly important, one must not assume that an educational system is effective just because a lot of money is poured into it. I thus feel that the other Nordic countries got too used to their good systems and changed the priorities without realizing that the results would change too."

The schools are not that different anywhere in the world, the surrounding society is.
The becoming well integrated members part is done, for example, in Norway by having a national day with childrens celebrations - it is good to start on an early age, telling "we" are different from the "others"
Copying the Finnish school system which focuses on the inviduals, not groups, as in some other countries, would achieve nothing as there are more important parts in society.
The focus on invidualism makes Finns easy to govern too: so if someone wants to, for example, force all to study swedish: all someone needs to do is have "us" all go and make sure the invidual who makes the decisions agrees.
"There were six demonstrators, all of them actives of Suomalaisuuden liitto."
Not more dared to go. Wrong opinions on TV means quick end to career (or even social benefits for the poor)

"The Swedish-haters are only couple of kids and some bitter old men of Suomalaisuuden liitto and you can always get a few laughs about their fanatism."

Yes, you laugh at those who you love to opress.
It is fanatic to force others study your language, which is not needed anywhere. It is not fanatic to be against that, all Finnish school kids are against it, and almost all adults as well (older ones did not need to study swedish so they do not fully understand the matter, the opression is getting harder all the time: if asked personally, all hate the language, not many would dare tell that to any reporter, yet the hate comes exactly from people like you who force that, the jew who hated the nazi camp warden was not a hateful person, the warden was)

Posted by: | June 5, 2005 05:49 AM

"Oh, and they had a petition of obligatory Swedish. 8,000 names (not as many persons) had said their opinion about education. They sent the petion to the Finnish ministry of judgment"

I hereby propose school kids will be given forms to make such a petition next year. So that nobody would lose their career and life over that, I propose the government pays for the forms.

Posted by: | June 5, 2005 05:51 AM

I personally know no one who hates Swedish language or the Swedish-speaking people. I haven't asked any kids.

Swedish language is needed at work in many professions in Finland.

If you tell lies, try to make them believable ones. Everybody in their right mind knows, that if almost all the adults were against the Swedish language, it would have been thrown out long ago.

Posted by: Urja | June 5, 2005 08:03 AM

"Teachers are usually highly respected. The main exception is the swedish teachers, "

They thank for the disrespect by making sure thousands of Finns never graduate from school. Just put a number "4" (=Fail, grades go from 4 to 10, average is usually 8, "4" is relatively common in Swedish) to report card and thats it.

"Everybody in their right mind knows, that if almost all the adults were against the Swedish language, it would have been thrown out long ago."

If Finland was an independent country and not under opressive Swedish rule, that would be so.

Swedish is a small, insignificant language. Were Finland independent, it would be political suicide to make it (and not English, German, Polish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, French...) obligatory.

Swedes all are taught English precisely because Swedish is a small and useless language.

Finns are not all taught English. A huge disadvantage as everybody needs it. Finnish trade would need more speakers of German, Spanish and French, etc.. But pupils are taught Swedish, instead. Trade with Sweden is smaller than with many other countries, languages of which are not obligatoy.

Posted by: | June 5, 2005 09:23 AM

talk of a fanatic..
google search for "urja" from jippii.fi
http://www.google.fi/search?hl=fi&as_qdr=all&q=urja+site%3Ajippii.fi&meta=

Posted by: fanatism | June 5, 2005 09:31 AM

"Foreign educators in droves want to visit Finnish schools for the simple reason that they are so good -- very likely the best on Earth."

Finnish newspapers, maybe not nearly as good as in Germany are read by almost all Finns. That is much more reason than schools or teachers for the success.
In many countries, there is more tabloid-like papers.

Posted by: | June 5, 2005 09:33 AM

Teacher of mandatory Swedish are not respected in Finnish schools.

Their role is like that of the teachers of mandatory marxsism-leninism in Soviet schools.

Hated but a must to have job in the state administration. And all the Finns are educated to work later or sooner at the state administration.

Posted by: To notice | June 5, 2005 09:39 AM

7.2 % of Finns did not graduate high school last year because they did not pass Swedish.
Add to that all those who did not pass during the earlier years.
In comparison, Swedes are less than 5 percent of population.
One of my friends in high school had l in maths (10 as number) and wanted to be a MSc in Engineering. Last I saw him, worked as a security guard in Anttila
department store as he did not pass Swedish despite trying a couple of times again. Had bad English too, only m and 7 if I remember right (m is average, 8 is average), but probably could still have worked as engineer.

Posted by: | June 5, 2005 12:43 PM

Laudatur (l) in maths means a lot of doing homework, nobody who gets it is lazy.

And those who are not good in Swedish (or maths or English) do not even try to get to high school as the average needed is about 8 (depending on school, some have more than 9, some not specified, which means, those who are less than average never get through high school, as it is a lot more demanding than universities, where you only study what you decided to study (+swedish, english, german usually)

So to put it in words, probably quite a lot more Finns do not pass school because they are not as good as required in Swedish than there are Swedes in Finland.

Posted by: | June 5, 2005 12:50 PM


"Swedish language is needed at work in many professions in Finland."

Urja lies.

Posted by: Truth serum | June 6, 2005 02:51 AM

Swedish language is needed at work in many professions in Finland."

Urja lies.
--
And what else is new..

Political corruption on a truly massive scale means that sadly there is no school instruction about nazism in Finland. Germany is mentioned but the whole matter is quickly passed rather than discussed in detail.

http://www.sci.fi/~eiry/alersuom.html
"alempirotuiset suomalaiset"
http://www.google.fi/search?q=uppsala+racial+biology&hl=fi
About the racial biology in Sweden and Uppsala university, from 20s to 60s.
Finns were considered to be a lower race in Sweden. In the same manner as the Germans considered some races but not including Finns lower. Finns had luck the Swedes were not believed by the Germans.
Germany was occupied and nazism ceased to exist. In Sweden the same regime continued and continues to rule.
http://www.google.fi/search?hl=fi&q=racial+biology+oslo&meta=
For example:
"Mjoen, an active member of the governing Liberal Party, found considerable support for his eugenic ideas among government officials. By 1915, the party platform included a call for the study of practical methods for treating folk-disease - "fokesykdommer." Mjoen was also able to convince the Parliament to create the Institute for Genetics at the University of Oslo in 1916. Ragnar Vogt, founder of Norwegian psychiatry, was placed in charge of it. "

School children should be taught the truth about Nordic countries instead of the rosy picture they now are given.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 06:06 AM

"Teachers, teachers and teachers." Then she grinned an un-Finnish grin at one of her favorites, English teacher Riitta Severinkangas, 47, who has been teaching for 16 years.

--
English teaching means lots of grammatical exercises and very little talking. It would be better to teach how to talk than to know the grammatical rules but nobody has told that the teachers.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 06:11 AM

Comparison of salaries:

--
If the figures are correct: Why the people of the U.S. have something like double the cars and more than double the space in their houses ?
Only the taxation and lower prices do not seem as enough reason.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 06:13 AM

"If Finland was an independent country and not under opressive Swedish rule, that would be so."

Finland is an independent country and not under any Swedish rule.

And Finnish children learn other languages, too. The ones who can't learn more than two languages, don't usually have more. Most people have enough hard disk space in their heads to learn several languages, some do not.

It is considered Finnish, Swedish and English to be the most important languages in Finland, in that order. So, if most people can learn at leeast two languages, why on earth should their first choices be others than those?

All of the Finnish children don't have to be engineers or economists when they grow up. Finland needs people as plumbers, guards, nurses etc.

Posted by: Urja | June 6, 2005 06:59 AM

"It is considered Finnish, Swedish and English to be the most important languages in Finland, in that order. So, if most people can learn at leeast two languages, why on earth should their first choices be others than those?"

You consider, not others. Most people have trouble learning lots of languages at the same time there is a lot of other subjects to be learned.

"All of the Finnish children don't have to be engineers or economists when they grow up. Finland needs people as plumbers, guards, nurses etc."

And not to worry, you and the other Swedes are taught to be the former, Finns the latter.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 07:42 AM

Swedish language has an ugly history in Finland unlike the other languages:

http://www.sci.fi/~eiry

That makes the difference. The statements given by prominent members of Swedish Volk Party does make the image of Swedish at all better.

Posted by: A Finn (not a Finlander) | June 6, 2005 07:51 AM

There is ancient animal in some Finnish forests called a "Food-Beast" or agrorum villanus in Latin.
It makes its way through the forests looking for mushrooms, livestock, and other foodstuffs. It can be dangerous to humans because of its large teetha nd agressive ways. We Finns learn this saying from the mouths of our Mommo's while a baby - "Beware the Food-Beast" whispers Mommo.

Travellers to Finnish north country should take note. No need to panic - just take note. Each town usually posts current sightings of this creature for your convenience.

Posted by: Petri the Finn | June 6, 2005 01:02 PM

my father shot such an animal, as you call "Food-Beast", in Salo. I have always called this thing kekkomainnen, not "food-Beast."

Posted by: katriina | June 6, 2005 01:55 PM

What is this food-beast they speak of?

Posted by: Curious George | June 6, 2005 07:01 PM

What is this food-beast they speak of?
-
Since this is a serious-kind-of-a-newspaper and serious-kind-of-a-blog: Probably someone was bored and made something up or found something funny in some book.

Posted by: | June 7, 2005 06:53 AM

To The Nameless One:

It's no use to teach many languages to "most people" who have trouble learning stuff, even without languages. In reality, those people are not "most people".

And btw, I'm not a Swede. What makes you think so?

Posted by: Urja | June 7, 2005 08:12 AM

Origins of the Finnish school system. Here for all nations to copy:

http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/encyclopedia/E/Ed/Education_in_East_Germany.htm

Posted by: | June 7, 2005 08:47 AM

"And btw, I'm not a Swede. What makes you think so?"

Well there is a lot of finn-bashing among Swedes. For some strange reason the Swedes in Finland call themselves "Finland-Swedes" to the Finns.
All their things are still called "swedish.."
http://www.google.fi/search?hl=fi&q=svenska+site%3A.fi&btnG=Hae&meta=
such as their amazingly rich Svenska Kulturfonden
http://www.kulturfonden.fi/
which is for the spreading of Swedish culture in Finland.
In Swedish newspapers there is a lot of Finn-bashing, otherwise called psychological warfare, calling Finns things that are negative at the time. Used to be lesser race, then criminals, then and now drunks. Lots of it is written by "Finland-Swedes" who have moved to and live in Sweden.

Two national days in Finland. Only the elite of the Finns have parties on Independence day but the Swedes have a big party with good food on that day. Then there is the Svenska Dagen, the second independence day. There is no independence day from Sweden as Finland is not that.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 04:50 AM

The focus on schools is not that evident to Finns who go to the schools.

Now if Finns cared about their children they would sent each the poster "justification for higher education"
http://www.acclaimposters.com/_gallery/large/10092590.jpg

- instead of all the crap talk in schools about trade schools by the school teachers, at least in worse-off areas.

They had a study that the favorite trade of all for finns is chef.
That means working for low pay if you can find work. Most who study to be that, end up in other fields as there is no work for all who studied that and the job is physically demanding.
Really, Finnish kids want to be chefs. Not doctors or anything that makes money. The education system must be totally f...d up.
There is nothing wrong with being a chef and I think everyone who wants to be one should be taken to the schools, at least we would get better food. But not so. They want to be a chef and put that as number one in their forms but end up in some other trade school instead as there is competition to be a chef. They do not even fill the form for high school (a different form altogether.) and thus end up being out of work half of their lives. Some most of it.
Of course, those who have parents in good jobs, usually go to high school instead in order to get a decent education and be able to pay the bills, afford a family and so on.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 04:58 AM

"Low math only mingle with low math students and the same with vocational school students. Then, the students who go off to university rarely would date or even imagine marrying someone who did not have a university degree."

That is so. No pu..y for the uneducated.

What the state does not care to mention when telling the children of low-income families to go to trade schools "all are needed", "trade schools are a quick way to get a good job" and the direct lie "not all academic students get a job" is that there are other countries in EU, not only Finland.
_If_ there was overeducation in Finland, there would be jobs available elsewhere. And even if there was overeducation elsewhere too, the competition would still mean better pay for all as the best man would be selected for the job instead of the only one available, which happens now, when the state severely limits the places in higher education.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 05:04 AM

To the Great Nameless One, again:

I am not a Finland-Swedish, either. Where'd you get that idea?

Posted by: Urja | June 8, 2005 07:46 AM

Yeah, right.

Posted by: Niko | June 10, 2005 05:09 AM

" No pu..y for the uneducated."
I don't know what you mean. Is there any for the gratuated? Is it something edible?

Posted by: Urja | June 11, 2005 05:40 AM

http://www.helsinginsanomat.fi/keskustelu/thread.jspa?threadID=2857&tstart=30
To Vaasa University there is the same amount of places for the finnish and the swedish speaking law students. Of the population 5% are swedish speaking.
Equality at work.
A person who looked up to the viking was Adolf Hitler. His famous SS Viking fought bravely against the Russians.
http://www.wiking.org/
Also a ship had the same name:
http://home.cogeco.ca/~nfldroots/viking.htm

Only country still under viking rule. Finland. Must be the worst place on earth.

Posted by: | June 14, 2005 05:39 AM

Adolf Hitler looked up to the viking and ended his life. How many days Finland, so fascinated with the sons of the Viking, that everybody must study their language, has left, is not yet known.

Posted by: | June 14, 2005 05:42 AM

I personally was told by the employment counselor that I was "too old" to work in FInland and I'm only 45 with a Masters Degree in Computer Science.
--
Thats very nice of them. Usually they tell you are too stupid and lazy. I am officially not even unemployed as I did not go to a low-level course which would have meant having to see people that I did not want to see.
Yet every day I look for work. Do not get the benefit.
Very common, to get one of these called "karenssi" (period of time, when no money, also possible to get one after another for long time as they can assign you to a job that is too far for you, if you have no car, or just "lose" your papers etc.)

Posted by: | June 14, 2005 07:43 AM

"Thats very nice of them."

..as long as you continue to use english they will not tell the usual obscenities at you as their grasp of the language is not good enough.

Posted by: Same as above | June 14, 2005 07:45 AM

"Speak Swedish or leave the school".

That is typical Germanic pedagogics.

http://195.255.83.67/cgi-bin/mediaweb?Newsp=hbl&Date=020406&Depa=inrikes&Model=ajuttusivu.html&Story=05172899.txt#toppen

Swedish schools got worse results than Finnish schools in PISA survey.

The staff at Swedish schools should modernize their teaching methods and attitudes towards non-Swedish people.

It is unlikely because the rotten is in the culture itself. For them everything is language politics in stead of pedagogics.

Parents who want a good start for their kids don't put their kids into a Swedish school.

Posted by: Lahden Ahkera | June 17, 2005 04:49 AM

First of all, I would like to thank Robert Kaiser and Lucian Perkins for this diary/blog. I was searching something entirely different (rock festivals in Finland), when I stumbled upon this site.
I have always wondered what foreign people think about Finland, because the only comments I have heard are about the difficulty of Finnish language and the polar bears living in Helsinki. It's nice to see, that some people have taken the time to explore Finland.

I'm only 14 years old, so I'm not going to debate about the issues that have got to do with politics (I know almost everything is connected to the government and politics, but there is a line)
As most of the entries above are about education, I'm just going to voice my own opinion about them and include some of my own experiences.
Sadly, I only went through my first year of primary in a Finnish school, before I moved to Brussels, and continued my schooling in an European school. Because of that, my own experiences are limited, but my information is not, as I have Finnish friends.
I think one of the reasons to our country's success in PISA, is the relationship between the teachers and the students.
When I compare my Finnish teachers and for example my French teacher (the teachers in Finnish schools might be different, but in this case I'm imagining, that most of the teachers there are like mine), their attitude at the student is completely different. The French teacher singles out the best students and works with them, and tells the rest of the class to pull themselves up. The Finnish teachers encourage the lesser students to work hard and help them, and let the students, that are obviously gifted in the subject to develope their skills. I don't mean that the teachers neglect the good students, but they give them space to explore the subject on their own and inspire them.
There is also an easy relationship between the students and the teacher, and the use of first name is not a sign of lack of respect.
The second reason might be the introduction to literature at an early age.
Finns are eager readers, and there is a vast choice of books for readers of every age, thanks to the local libaries and bookstores. In Finland, there is also a "kirjastoauto", which is like a small libary on wheels. That way even people living in the countryside can get something to read.
Also the students are more energetic learners, because there is a large choice of courses even in the secondary.
From my experience, I've discovered, that the Finnish language teachers aren't that good, but the student use English outside school, and learn to use it on their own.
For the Finnish-Swedish thing, not much to comment. Most Finnish teenagers and children don't hate Swedish and Swedes, but rather the compulsory Swedish.

I know, that there is a bit of reluctance to letting imigrants to Finland. Most of Finland's population is "white", because if you try to remeber, Finland only got it's independence in 1917, and it took quite a few years before Finland was thought as something else than a small country near the North Pole. That might also be the reason behind the lack of elite universites in Finland. How old is Harvard or Oxford? I don't think they just happened to come to existence in a short period of time.

Someone brought up the issue of suicides (especially underaged suicides), and blamed it on the school environment. Stress is a factor, but there are many other makers.

Also, in most Finnish secondary schools students can choose Latin, and there are quite many keen Latinists in Finland. Also every Saturday, YLE (a Finnish radio channel) sents Latin News, that are listened all over the world. Again, we Finns have done something that no-one else does.

Finnish people are regarded as shy people with a low self esteem. Finland doesn't meddle much with the international issues in politics, but rather watches silently from the side lines. Even in Finnish warfare protecting our borders was more important them attacking other nations. I don't think that even if Finland was powerful enough to declare a war aganst any country, it would.
And as many people have said, I don't think of it as attention seeking, but rather curiosity. I would be happier, if people knew, that there was more to Finland than Santa Claus and Nokia.

A visit to Severinkangas's eighth-grade class demonstrates that her students can all read and speak in English, a language that has virtually nothing in common with the Finns' obtuse and complex native tongue.

-Using the word obtuse might be a mistake, because at least my computer translator said that it ment dull, stupid, slow etc...
I at least would never call Finnish slow or dull.
For example here is the longest word in Finnish, that isn't a compound word.
epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkäänwhich roughly translated means'even with their lack of ability to disorganize'

And a palindrome Saippuakippokukkakivikakkukoppikauppias
which means 'Soap-bowl-flower-stone-cake-box seller'

I of course could have divided this comment and scattered them to the rightful entries, but this saved some time.

Posted by: Katariina L. | July 1, 2005 11:50 AM

(I apologize for a few mistakes in my comment above, and the roughness of my English)

Posted by: Katariina L. | July 1, 2005 11:56 AM

To those who said US forces would protect Finland during Cold War:
I would like to remind you that during 50´s and 60´s US embassador told finns that incase of SU attack Finland is on its own. So, once again, we can depend no one else than ourselves, which is good.

Posted by: US forces? | July 19, 2005 09:30 AM

"So this is one big reason for why they do so well in school. In the schools, there is absolutely no respect for teachers."

Maybe I'm particularly "obtuse" today, but I fail to see the connection. I've seen a lot of disrespectful people in a variety of settings, and they are certainly not the bright sparks, quite the contrary.

Besides, adressing people by their first names is the done thing in Finland, it's not disrespectful. Plonk a Finnish student in America, France - wherever, and they will quite happily refer to teachers as "Sir" or "Madame So-and-So" if necessary. It's just a question of what offends people and what doesn't. Finns aren't offended by people calling them by a name which is, in fact, their own.

"Many of the finnish teachers that I know go off and get drunk just as much as any teachers I know in Los Angeles. Actually, since getting drunk at a party in finland is almost "required", I am sure Finnish teachers are drunk more often."

So why is it bad or even relevant that some Finnish teachers may drink an equal or greater amount of alcohol that their LA counterparts? Remember, there's actually no evidence of the claim, the comparison is completely based on guesswork and random comparison.

Personally I think teachers - just as seamstresses, cooks, lecturers and politicians - have the right to get absolutely hammered if they so choose. So long as they're not dangerous to anyone, it's not going to make their lessons any worse or their pasta dishes any less al dente.

Posted by: Sanna | July 21, 2005 05:08 AM

Half the Finnish teachers are nutcases who should not be allowed near children. Not so much a problem with the women who usually shout only, but some of the men also hit the children.
Obviously you get applause for the teaching profession if you ask them and not the children.

Posted by: reality check | August 31, 2005 07:28 AM

The women can (as can the men) easily send the kids to special schools where there are men to take of the beating.
No problem there for the violent.

Posted by: | September 2, 2005 05:39 AM

There also is coming the american system (slowly but maybe in 20 years it will be here, too) that giving kids drugs 'helps' them as long as they are called medicine.
Speed for "ADHD" (though none of the Finnish kids would be diagnosed that with the american guide lines --- probably half would be diagnosed severely depressed, because of the cultural differences, using that) or coke for something else, very helpful it must be.
It would be better to make it legal to beat up the children. The bruises heal. The damage done by drugs does not.

Posted by: | September 2, 2005 05:43 AM

Great "school-tv" program today (YLE, the nationalt tv channel sends such, schools record them and show to kids) - the church apparently has been 850 years in the country and now continues it's lies:
To children are taught things like (there was a finnish stupid boy, who had F in swedish, much lower than the cultured, civilized swedes are, as are all the finns) the church came in peace, no fighting (or raping or raiding, which was the case) and it is great that the (swedish) church came and helped people in so many ways and the saint of finland (who someone killed as he raped finns' wives) is soo great etc.
--
10:15 Koulu-tv: Risti ja siniristi

----- | Kommentit (0 kpl)

- Merkitse suosikiksi
- Merkitse huippuohjelmaksi
- Lisää kalenteriisi (vCalendar, ohjeet)

1/5 Muinaista ja ikuista. Sarjan avausjakso avaa näköalan Suomeen 850 vuotta sitten. Kuka täällä asui? Mihin uskottiin? Tutustumme Kalleen ja Auroraan sekä Historian Saliin, jota isännöi mystinen Tutor. www.yle.fi/kouluportti

Posted by: | September 7, 2005 07:03 AM

Thing is, Finns are not among the most clever people. Some even do research in intelligence: Tatu Vanhanen found Finns to be rather stupid people with less than 100 IQ (and the black even more stupid)
http://www.helsinginsanomat.fi/english/article/1076154106996

History books do not bother tell the (swedes) viking came, raping and raiding the coast and then a bit later the swedes (claiming to be on God's mission) came and did the same for the rest of the county. Apparently the idea is to teach, when the viking come, let them rape you and cut the throats of your children.

To obey, memorize (useless or even harmful lies) and not question anything is the key to success in the Finnish school system.

Posted by: | September 7, 2005 08:33 AM

"Personally I think teachers - just as seamstresses, cooks, lecturers and politicians - have the right to get absolutely hammered if they so choose. So long as they're not dangerous to anyone, it's not going to make their lessons any worse or their pasta dishes any less al dente."

I dont think anyone cares if teachers drink or not as long as their sober on the job. Some years ago, that was not that common in most jobs in Finland, nowadays, it must be boring to work.

Posted by: | September 9, 2005 06:45 AM

"but some of the men also hit the children."

Tend to be the crazy ones teach in worse areas, good ones in good areas.

Posted by: | September 9, 2005 07:24 AM

I was disappointed to hear kids still make class trips to stockholm. The boats are full of swedes and thus not safe (really, maybe sounds funny, but true) and they often do not go to Helsinki, only to where the power lives.

Why not make (all EU kids, gov't should pay instead of parents which means those with no money make no class trips) trips to Belgium to see the parliament there and Frankfurt, see the ECB (a newspaper told, the europeans value their local central banks, not much use for them ever since the euro, so much that their chairmen get a lot more pay than alan greenspan in the US) or at least cultural treasures of central and southern europe, would not cost more than the boats because of the cheap airlines ?
Stockholm got Swedish women to be popular (long ago) as it was the whorehouse of europe (that is not told to kids though) - they do not look that different from other european women, but still are popular (think kofi annan, tiger woods) - because of the historical populatity boost. (Nowadays they have even made buying sex illegal in Sweden, their feminist party is also taking a logical step in proposing removing marriage from legistlation, as that is buying sex for half the people, but why are men blamed - they are the ones who have to pay, the women get the money ?)

Posted by: | September 12, 2005 05:44 AM

It is indeed a great shame to be Finnish:
from:
http://keskustelu.suomi24.fi/show.fcgi?category=110&conference=4500000000000279&posting=22000000010715369

("the china plane" written by "deep shame")
Kiinan kone
Kirjoittanut: Syvä häpeä 21.9.2005 klo 09.28

On syvä häpeä olla suomalainen.
"it is a deep shame to be finnish"
Turun sanomien pääkirjoituksessa (www.turunsanomat.fi) pääministeri toivoo suomalaisten opiskelevan Kiinan kieltä.
" in the turunsanomat newspaper the prime minister wishes finns to study chinese"
Arvoisa pääministeri vaan on mukana terrorijärjestössä joka on tuhonnut
"the distinguished PM is part of a terrorist organization which has blasted the china plane already on the airport"
suomalaisten Kiinan koneen jo kentälle, eli valtiossa joka pakottaa suomalaiset opiskelemaan ruotsin kieltä
"that is to say, in the state, which forces finns to study swedish"
- Kiinaa tai monia muita elämässä oikeasti hyödyllisiä kieliä ei sitten tarjolla olekaan, ei kouluissa eikä yliopistoissa, jollei sitten Handelshögskolanissa ja Åbo Akademissa ole. Lahjusrahat taskussa on helppo hymyillä mutta Suomen kansaa ei hymyilytä.
"chinese or other languages that are useful in life are not available, not in schools nor in universities" "..with the bribes in pocket, it is easy to smile but the people of finland are not smiling" (in reality, it is more political force, not money that is used, intimidation, scaring people etc., say it is time to scrap the compulsary swedish, it is bye to your career)

Kiinan kone meni jo parikymmentä vuotta sitten.

Silloin kun päätettiin ruotsinpakosta. Ettei ollut vielä keskusta mukana päättämässä ?

"the plane left 20 years ago when they decided about the forced swedish - was not the party of the pm there too, deciding"
On syvä häpeä olla suomalainen.
"it is a deep shame to be finnish"

- I agree.

Posted by: | September 21, 2005 04:58 AM

Nowadays everything is terrorist-something - the local newspaper "keskisuomalainen" already used terrorist to describe young women who write stupid graffiti about animals' rights, so I would not use the word at all anymore.

Why not call the PM something more appropriate "swede" or something with a similar effect, in English that would be a nazi or something like that ? Obviously a used word also but not as much as terrorist nowadays. In Finnish, nazi is not that negative so the word would have to something else.

Posted by: Inflated words | September 22, 2005 11:22 AM

(more about the word and it's use in the same newspaper: they do _not_ call the actual terrorists terrorists, those who live in town and been arrested abroad for terrorism charges, are not called that, but the young women are)

Posted by: | September 22, 2005 11:25 AM

YLE, the nationalt tv channel sends such, schools record them and show to kids) - the
-
the yle boss is a finland-swede (the only finnish channel is tv4 which shows mainly american series, not much documentaries or news) - most homes have only four channels now and in a couple of years with the digital tv, there will be some more channels but no more content as the yle has several useless channels on the digital, only reruns of what is has already shown on it's tv1 and tv2 - state owned tv, which you have to pay 200 euros a year for is such a great thing.

Posted by: | September 22, 2005 11:29 AM

A perfect idea would be to show porn on the (too many) government channels: biggest problem in the country is the lack of children: to fix that, people should be encouraged to have sex, so show porn 24/7 on the channels that now show reruns.

This is a serious post. The country will disappera without children.

Posted by: | September 25, 2005 03:41 PM

Easier to achieve would be to forbid condoms and such.

Posted by: | September 27, 2005 05:58 AM

Wow! All this anti-Swede stuff!? I didn't observe the animosity I just read about here. All the street signs and official notices are in both languages. Finnish and Swedish. I was in Helsinki for 2 weeks this summer and LOVED the feel of it. My son's been there 7 years with his Finnish Ladyfriend. They met when she was in CA as Exchange Student and after a visit to FI (3 winter months)he liked her country and her people so much he made it his home and went to school for hotel/restaurant mgmt. He's been working in the Service Industry the entire time, originally as a class requirement for school. After 3 yrs his Finnish was not good. So many Finns speak English he could get by. I went to FI for his wedding this summer and was impressed at his easy flowing Finnish. His friends and family there all say he speaks it very fluently. Like a native...pronunciation and sentence structure, they tell me.(Yes a CA HS grad.) I liked FI and the peple I interacted with were kind and made me feel welcome. In the department stores we realized the staff wore pins bearing the flags of countries whose language they spoke. I do ramble. My point is that my son who lives there is pleased with the schooling and the healthcare system and the government/politics in general. Public transportation is good and safe, used by all kinds of folks without problems.
Regarding depression and suicide...No sunshine for months on end can have that effect on teens, teachers, businessmen, factory workers, parents or anybody else no matter what the nationality, education system, monetary status, or linguistic ability. Lack of vitamin causes chemical imbalance=depression.

Posted by: Do Bee | November 4, 2005 04:30 PM

http://www.bookplus.fi/product.php?&isbn=9512071126&CustID=a326fc9a92206bf6a43bb22e7a03ef2b

Reality of Finnish schools: some of the teachers are sane, most not. Above link to book "principal is gay, teachers are crazy", a sane teacher's book about her profession (collection about what the pupils say about the teachers), alas, most are nuts, the kids are not lying or exaggerating. Most principals are that too, probably not gay though, as most are married females.

" Regarding depression and suicide.."

Todays "news" had 3500 a year die of cold weather a year in Finland ("news" as hundreds have frozen to death in eastern europe, most who die in finland die because they want to or have to go out in cold weather despite bad health or old age, lots freeze too, but less than in eastern europe)

Posted by: | January 27, 2006 09:26 AM

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