Lifelong Learning Platform | LLLP - European Civil Society for Education

PLA on “linguistic and cultural diversity” in Helsinki, Finland

From SIRIUS Network newsletter

Two days long peer learning activity (PLA) on “linguistic and cultural diversity- integration of migrants through inclusive education in schools” held in Helsinki, Finland, on March 22-23. The activity was organized by the European Commission and hosted by the Ministry of education and culture, Finland. SIRIUS’ member, Nafisa Yeasmin, from the University of Lapland, Finland, was invited to attend the PLA on behalf of the Lifelong Learning Platform (LLLP) representing both the LLLP and SIRIUS.

Nafisa sent us a small report of the activity and its main conclusions:

Embedding multilingualism and language awareness in the school culture has potentially raised a positive discussion during the PLA.  Support in learning mother tongue in the school premises has an impact on academic and language learning which can develop children´s self-esteem and academic success. In Finland, some schools offer mother tongue amongst migrant children. School in Turku city also support migrant children by providing native subject teacher like in solving complex mathematical texts or texts related to science. This support measure is found effective among migrant children in Turku schools, Finland. Many other good practices regarding this context have been discussed during the PLA.

Comprehensive assessment of learner’s prior knowledge can also support teachers´ need to be well prepared to support migrant education.  Assessment on children´s previous education level can support children´s educational attainment indeed.

Finland´s new curriculum pays special attention to language and multiple key features of literacies which aims to develop language awareness in the school culture. During the PLA, we have visited two Finnish schools 1) Hösmärinpuiston school in Espoo city and 2) Länsimäen koulu in Vantaa city.

The Hösmärinpuiston school is good evidence of inclusive preparatory tuition which also provide linguistic support among migrant children. Children´s plurilingualism is highly valued and children are encouraged to practice their mother tongue in lessons to some extent and during other school activities. Learning paths are personalized and designed for each student, tailored to their personal needs and based on their previous educational level, age and other related factors. When children shift from this school to another school or mainstream classes, their individual curriculum and educational history also move forwards to the next school. Previous teacher shares the individualized curriculum with new class teachers which has been set through cooperation between previous teacher, student and guardian. This School offer mother tongue and religion education by qualified native teachers. If some student would not like to practice own religion then they can participate in the ethics classes which is an optional education offered by Finnish schools.

The second school focuses on the promotion of multilingualism and language awareness based on the new Finnish core curriculum. They also support teachers to better prepare for creating a diverse school culture that might promote learning, participation, well-being and other sustainable key features to develop pupil´s competences.

There were three workshops at the PLA on 1) Preparing teachers for supporting student´s plurilingualism, respecting their identity and development of self-confidence, 2) Promoting inclusive school culture where linguistic and cultural diversity is valued and 3) supporting multilingualism and developing language awareness as an integral part of teaching and school culture.

There are many challenges and opportunities to implement policies in practice. Since in Finland, some municipality are struggling to find qualified native teachers with pedagogical competences who can teach mother tongue and other subjects. On the other hand, the implementation of the core curriculum very much depends on school leaders and school atmosphere, since school leaders have autonomies to some extent to create any linguistic and cultural models for schools.

In general, promoting an inclusive school culture requires shared leadership culture and democratic values at school. Participants also discuss about teacher´s equal treatment towards all children in the classroom and avoid language and cultural hierarchies. “Critical friends” idea raised as a good practice in Cyprus against racism and guide teachers for managing racist incidents in schools.

At the end of the days, we discussed about the dissemination and implementation of the best practices. As a representative of LLLP and Sirius, I see that we need more cooperation between civil society organizations and public authorities. When it is a question of implementing policies then we need to create constructive dialogue among regional or national policy makers in order to modernize policies based on existing good evidences.