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Education is learning to make choices

We want to help people become successful and to help people when they struggle. We believe in providing a safety net for those who need it and in giving everyone an equal chance to succeed.

Education creates opportunities for employment and for life. This is the firm belief of the EPP Group and it is the message of Finnish teacher Pasi Linnus, who feels that schools must give students the ability to make big choices in life.

Finland: an education success story

Pasi Linnus teaches philosophy, history and some Finnish in the European School in Brussels since 2000. He has a Masters degree, as is required of all teachers in Finland. And after his graduation from the University of Helsinki, Linnus continued with postgraduate studies in ULB, the Free University of Brussels.

Ever since Finland topped the International Student Assessment (Pisa) league tables, it has been asked the secret of its success.

It’s not about the best students, but about schools that help the ones in danger of falling behind, explains Linnus. But it is also about teachers who are respected and well-educated, say those who follow Finnish teachers.

Bringing lower-achieving students to the front instead of sending them to the back

The good results of Finnish pupils are based especially on integrated support measures for lower-achieving students.

In fact, Finland has a long tradition of supporting its weakest pupils, which means that the propability of a student repeating a class level even once during the whole school period is 3.8%. In France the equivalent figure is 28.4%, significantly higher than the average rate of 12% for all OECD countries.

“In some European countries there is a long tradition of sending the weakest pupils to the back of the classroom or letting them repeat the class-level,” explains Linnus. This has also led to a league table attitude towards schools that are classed as those with ‘good reputations’ and those that do not always help the less-achieving students.

“It is much cheaper, both economically and in terms of the social consequences, to support the weakest fifth in significantly raising their marks than it is to raise the top five percent of students to perfection,” says Linnus.

Learning for life

“Teachers like to emphasise knowledge, but, for me, even more important are social skills and the ability to make choices. It is an invaluable skill to be able to make realistic choices for ourselves throughout life.”

One of these choices may be starting an own business. Those entrepreneurial skills should be taught at school as well, says Linnus.

“On the subjects taught at school, I have always wondered why subjects related to entrepreneurship have so little space in the curriculum. Marketing, accounting, taxation and the basics of law all take second place at school. Yet starting an own business is becoming a more and more important and secure way to employment in our society.”

In her report on Tackling youth unemployment, adopted this September by the European Parliament, MEP Joanna Skrzydlewska proposes to modernise education systems to make sure that young people’s skills better match the requirements of the labour market. She also underlines that Member States should focus more on a dual education system to give young people the opportunity to combine apprenticeship in a company with vocational education in a school.

As Pasi Linnus sums up: “As a teacher, I always get the most comfort when I see that one of my ex-students has succeeded in life. From that I can be sure that the passing on of knowledge and education are still big issues. Perhaps even bigger than ever before!”

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