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How to feel like you're living in a poor and backwards nation in one easy lesson - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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January 1st, 2012


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03:27 am - How to feel like you're living in a poor and backwards nation in one easy lesson
I would hope that reading the following article about the Finish school system would do exactly this for anyone in the US:
Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. "Oh," he mentioned at one point, "and there are no private schools in Finland."

This notion may seem difficult for an American to digest, but it's true. Only a small number of independent schools exist in Finland, and even they are all publicly financed. None is allowed to charge tuition fees. There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D....

Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.

In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.
This sounds like a miraculous dream to me. No, Western Europe is not paradise, but for the past 30 years, while the US became the land of crazed ultra-conservative discourse, increasing social inequality, and decreasing social mobility, many nations actually attempted to make the lives of their people better. It looks very likely to me that socially and politically the world as a whole will be a noticeably better place in 2021 than it was in 2011, but I'm far less certain that the US will be.
Current Mood: indescribableindescribable

(7 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:kitten_goddess
Date:January 1st, 2012 01:08 pm (UTC)
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From:mlerules
Date:January 1st, 2012 06:10 pm (UTC)
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One of my new-now-ex's daughter now lives in Finland (having happily married the on-line guy she met who lives there). She's attending college and working on becoming a nurse (luckily she's very good w/languages). It's saving her (and her mom) tons o' money b'c it's all covered. She'll end up w/a degree, training, and experience that'll let her earn a decent living doing important things for other folks there. Quite sensible, this.
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From:whiskeychick
Date:January 3rd, 2012 03:58 pm (UTC)

Ex-Pat Anyone?

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I've been claiming to want to defect for years. My children HATE school; which is so distressing for me. I wonder about other social issues of Finland.
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From:xuenay
Date:January 4th, 2012 11:04 pm (UTC)

Re: Ex-Pat Anyone?

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I'm Finnish - is there anything in particular that you want to know?
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From:whiskeychick
Date:January 5th, 2012 03:02 pm (UTC)

Re: Ex-Pat Anyone?

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I guess I was just wondering about social issues, particularly how the LGBTQ community is treated. What other things besides getting education right are the Fins kicking butt at?
[User Picture]
From:xuenay
Date:January 5th, 2012 07:47 pm (UTC)

Re: Ex-Pat Anyone?

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LGBTQ issues, okay, though could be better. There's currently a "registered relationship" option available for same-sex couples that has most but not all the same rights as marriage. (E.g. no right to jointly adopt a child, though one of the partners may become the adopted parent of their partner's existing child.) The latest polls say that a little over half of the population supports the idea of full same-sex marriage, and Parliament is expected to have a vote over the possibility this season. Whether or not the law will pass is still uncertain, especially since a conservative party riding on anti-EU sentiment and discontent with the traditional parties got a lot of seats in the last elections.

On the transgender front, sex reassignment therapy is mostly covered by the state once one has a diagnosis; a brief search claims most of the therapy sessions cost only a token amount, and that the hormones are partially state-paid, though I'm not an expert on this field and am going by a random Wikibooks page. The lines may be long, though, and there have been one-year waits for e.g. genital reconstruction surgery before. Facial feminization surgery is also apparently not normally covered, but the rest of an MtF process seems to be. The page I'm looking at doesn't discuss FtM transitions, but I'd presume that generally the same situation applies there.

That also describes the public healthcare system in general - the public side works and is pretty inexpensive, but the quality isn't always top-notch and there are often long waits for anything that doesn't warrant immediate treatment.

While the basic education is good, university teaching and organization could be better. Though again, it's free (except for a nominal ~100 EUR/year fee), so I can't really complain much. Students who are Finnish citizens also get a student benefit from the state to cover their living until graduation (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Student_benefit for the figures).

My main complaint would be with the social security system, which has been basically built around the assumption of everyone being an employee for a company that'll be around for a long time. As a result, anybody who the system might consider self-employed (business owners, artists, freelancers) has a very hard time of getting any social security money. There are also all kinds of disincentives where you don't want to do a one-off job because it'll be deducted from your payments in full, leaving you with no extra income for your effort, and on top of that you have to file a bunch of paperwork. It's a bureaucratic mess that's a nightmare to navigate, especially if you happen to be sick or depressed. There have been pushes to reform the system in the direction of a guaranteed basic income, but there's also a lot of resistance motivated by a reluctance to support "freeloaders". (Never mind the fact that the current system effectively incentivizes freeloading much more than a basic income would.)
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From:whiskeychick
Date:January 5th, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)

Re: Ex-Pat Anyone?

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Thanks for the information. Sounds like, just as in the United States, there is good and bad. At minimum, I think I need to plan a visit. When I lived in Europe, Finland was one of the countries I didn't make it to, unfortunately. If there's anything else you would tell someone just coming to Finland, I'm all ears (eyes). :D

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