Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Entrepreneurship in curriculum-based education through regional networks 16th October

Today was the first day of the study visit: entrepreneurship education at primary, secondary and senior secondary school.
We were picked up at 8.30 from the hotel. There are 10 of us taking part from all over Europe. What a friendly and interesting bunch.

Bus trip to the primary school
To accompany us to the secondary school was a teacher and three 9th graders (aged 15). I learnt that some of the most popular hobbies for teenagers here include horse riding, kickboxing and LOTs of ice hockey. Saara (aged 15), I hope that is the correct spelling, was recording the events of the day and will be making a short film about the trip.
It was explained that the Finnish education system is very good. An explanation might be that the language is easy to read and write and that teachers are well educated (5 years at university to qualify). In return teachers are rewarded with a good salary and a 10 week summer holiday.

Primary School
Lukko school is in Lukko in a small village in Mantsala. At this school there are 31 pupils of grades 1-6 (aged 7-12) in two mixed classes. The students don't wear any kind of uniform. There is a very relaxed atmosphere and shoes are removed by all students and staff and all walk around in only socks. The school had a feeling of being a home from home. Older children look out for younger children. All lunches are cooked on site and free to all students. Free preschool is provided for a year at aged 6.

A parent of one of the children, a local business owner, he runs a farm, was teaching the children about his farm on the day of our visit. collaboration with parents, local entrepreneurs and the school seems innovative.

Riihenmaki Secondary School
Still no one wears shoes! Apparently known as a 'sock school'?!
This is a junior high school for 7th to 9th graders who are aged 13-15. The school is in Mantsala, in Southern Finland, about 60km north of Helsinki and build in 1998. About 350 students attend the school. Class sizes average 19. In addition to normal class rooms the school has a library, drama theatre, excellent home economics facilities (compulsory curriculum), as well as a computer dance game, a couple of table tennis tables and freely available cycle helmets to encourage students to use them.
This school offers entrepreneurship classes. Students have to apply and pass an entrance exam for this course. If accepted they will study for up to 5 hours a week for the school year.
Students are encouraged to learn by doing and experimenting and told that making mistakes is okay. Aims of the course include: attitude; commitment; co-operation, initiative, teamwork. Targets of the course from the point of view of entrepreneurship include: intrapreneurship (characterised by courage and employability); external entrepreneurship (laws, business planning, accounting etc); establishing and running a company; co-operative companies (realistic picture of entrepreneurship).
The course is linked to traditional subjects in these ways: Languages (in Finland business English and Swedish are compulsory, in addition students complete 'language dips' (e.g. basic Estonian, Italian, French, Russian, German, Spanish); Mother tongue (writing documents, job applications, job interviews, correspondence and expressing oneself - drama); Health education (you have to be healthy to work); Maths (percentages, stats); History and social science (history of Finnish industry, projects team work); Home economics (household economics, running a school cafe); Geography (economic geography, natural resources in different countries); Religion (the dialogue of religions, philosophy, "know yourself and listen to others")
Examples of projects from entrepreneurship class include: planning a golf tournament for young people, a tee-shirt enterprise, in chair exercise classes for older people, local cultural walks, when older people are vaccinated for flu the students set up a cafe in the local health centre, advertisement competition (students make adverts for local businesses and display them around the town, the town then vote for the best advert).
one other point of note. Students vacuum after break times as part of a rota as they are expected to clean up after themselves.

Senior Secondary School
Mantsala senior secondary school is only 5 years old and very modern. About 300 students attend the school although it is not at full capacity (350 students). In Finland there is a secondary system and a vocational system. The school is part of the secondary system. I observed that the students seem calm. The cafeteria wasn't at all a shouty environment (lunch is provided free to all students). After lunch all students cleaned up their trays without any fuss. All students coats, shoes and other belongings are left on freely hanging around the building. There is a lot of trust - presumably things don't go missing - this is refreshing!
There are a number of activities to encourage entrepreneurship:
a) practical training - one a year students organise a day shadowing a person whose job they think they might be interested in or they can work in an environment to give it a 'test drive'
b) 'a day for future plans' - businesses come into the school to present to help students make decisions on their future
c) occupational afternoon
d) study visits
e) visitors
f) practical training for teachers - (vallu project). This was funded by the government to enable 'teachers to go out to the real world of work' to help them advise students better. This is to rebalance the fact that vocational teachers often 'work' too.
g) cultural trip where students have to raise the money themselves and raise opportunities to raise the money to attend
h) La Geode - when studying natural science students visited companies within the sector to bring the subject to life
In addition each student has to be entrepreneurial due to the fact that each student has an individual study plan which includes a minimum of 75 courses. For most universities there is also an entrance exam. The school have offered an entrepreneurship course for the last couple of years but this hasn't been taken up by enough students to run it. This is explained as it is an extra course and not compulsory. Perhaps it should be part of the formal curriculum?

A few other points of note
Entrepreneurship: in the beginning you have friends, fools and family
Don't take a job, make a job.
Concept of laicite.

Evening programme
Dinner was provided in a fantastic venue by a lake and included an authentic Finnish sauna. What was most special about this venue is that is staffed by college students...more about this tomorrow...

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