During summer break, Dr. Valerie Jones, Teacher Education Chair and Dr. Jeanne Bruce, Associate Professor, traveled with five pre-service educators to Helsinki, Finland, and Stockholm, Sweden to study the top-two school systems in the world. The group was able to tour a Finnish grade school to observe their curriculum and instruction and speak with the students and teachers. In Sweden, the group visited a university and were able to learn about Swedish high schools and the transition to higher education. In addition to the focus on education, the group did some sightseeing and learned about the history and architecture of these two countries.
The pre-service educators were significantly impacted by what they saw and learned. Adolescence to Young Adult Social Studies Education major, Jordan Wilson (’20) said, “I learned that the Finnish educational system seems to value their students as people rather than academic scores…and the fact that they viewed educators with as much respect as doctors blew my mind; they trust them to do their jobs… the trip, as a whole, helped to reinforce what kind of teacher I want to be.”
Early Childhood alumnus, Baylee DePugh (’19), said, “I really like the promotion of independence through reflection throughout the day and in every class."
Makayla Harr (’20), Adolescence to Young Adult Math Education major, remarked, “I loved that the schools not only promoted academic success but encouraged creativity and prioritized life skills and the arts just as much as academics. Their education system focuses well on the individual. Their students had choices in electives starting at a young age, and some were accelerated in their strongest subjects, and I loved that. Their system differentiates.”
Early Childhood Education major, Kerri Adkins (’20), enjoyed, “seeing the environments that influenced how the children learned. There were so many aspects, such as the cultural norms, actions from governing bodies, and even sustainable food, which are different from our own [educational system]. I also loved that in many aspects, children and family are universal.”
Middle Childhood alumnus, Dakota Farmer (‘19), said, “The culture of Finland and Sweden was so different than in our own, which helped me understand why their education system works so well. The trust built into the students, the adults, and the educators and education system really helps all those involved rise to the level needed. The country and education system build the purpose around the well-being of the children and the family. This can be seen through the importance of a good meal for lunch, the discipline learned before the children advance to school, and the maturity of the students at such a young age. The children trust that their teachers are there for their best interests, and the teachers trust that the students are competent enough to work with tools and advanced materials we would normally reserve for older students.”
Dr. Bruce explained, “The elementary school we visited gave us thought-provoking insights into why that country’s educational system is top-notch. The students there were exceptional. The university visit provided interesting ideas on how to educate our OCU students in ways that encourage them to dream big and seek out ways to serve others.”
Dr. Jones added, “This learning experience was the first of many for our department. We learned much and plan to spread what we’ve learned to other educators through conference presentations and workshops.”
Next spring, students will be able to have another learning experience in England, Ireland, and Scotland.
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