The President of the Finnish Trade Union of Education Mr Olli Luukkainen (blog post 2.10.2017) is one of the many people who have expressed concerns about the Finnish school producing every year around 6000 young persons who are unable to read well enough in order to manage in their everyday life. Do these difficulties that the youngsters have with understanding written words and sentences mean that they would not be able to cope with the day-to-day life?
The ability to understand different kinds of texts is unquestionably an essential core competence. Mr Luukkainen suggests that we should fight the illiteracy of youngsters by persuading them to read more novels and newspapers. We believe, however, in doing so we would probably lose much of other potential competences our youngsters might have. If the exercises that we have now are already decreasing their motivation to read, pushing the same kind of drill hardly helps anything. Something else is needed!
One recent attempt is the LeaDo method. It is the new Finnish innovation of learning environment, where pupils have access to exercise with bars and bunching bags while studying. This is believed to build brawn and endurance during lessons. These physical exercises aim at counteracting the misbehavior that often comes out in the classroom by the pupils who have difficulties to concentrate there.
There is scientific evidence showing that physical exercise enhances the function of our brains. If we think of the development of the human being we can conclude that using hands had a vital impact on our cognitive and social evolution. We understand sentences by forming simulations in our minds – this means that our abstract thinking interweaves with how we use our body. Hence, if kinesthetic information has an effect on our capability to derive information, it also impacts upon our ability to understand written concepts and thoughts.
From this point of view having a LeaDo center in every classroom sounds like a good idea. Unfortunately, we have about half a million pupils in the comprehensive school in Finland and the cost for one learning center is considerable.
In order to tackle this problem we have been developing and launching a new way of organizing learning. The method is provisionally called JOPA. We insist that by using the JOPA-practices
- the time used in school education will be shorten
- the learning results will improve
- the total spending on education will get smaller.
JOPA means that the student is accredited competence points from the work done at the workplace both for vocational secondary school and for lower secondary school studies. In practice, the work the youngster does at the workplace is assessed by the workplace instructor, the vocational teacher as well as the basic school teacher.
JOPA practices suits all students and could be easily extended to cover all educational levels. However this new JOPA-approach requires the teachers to adopt a new attitude towards learning outside of the school and skills to negotiate with entrepreneurs. Carrying out JOPA practices expects that all parties involved are willing to negotiate, plan and make assessments in smooth cooperation.
The text was written by lecturer Virve Vainio from Haaga-Helia School of Vocational Teacher Education and education management professional Kari Viinisalo from Oppisopimuskummit ry.