Finland Teacher Tales Pt. 3: Watch Out For Polar Bears (and Nanny States)!!

I keep hearing how great the Finnish school system is.

Is it though?

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” ~ Marie Curie

Before flying out to Norway and Finland I checked the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller tweets.

The Norwegians were very amused. "Thank you Australia for your concern. We can assure you that in mainland Norway all polar bears are stuffed and pose only limited risk," the Norwegian Foreign Minister tweeted.

While it is good to issue warnings about genuine risks, and it’s important to take safety procedures seriously, I think our authorities in Australia can tend to behave too much like controlling parents. And this is somewhat true in education as well.

I was in a discussion with a teacher in a Helsinki school. We were comparing and contrasting Finnish teachers’ roles and responsibilities with those of Australian teachers. Observing her, I almost felt responsible to correct her for her non-ergonomic chair, which was very high with a small base. “I presume, like us, you have strict policies and procedures, and committees and supervisors, to ensure that all safety precautions are being taken to protect teachers at all times?” I asked, speaking like a true Nanny. Her reply? “Oh, no – for the pupils, yes - but not for the teachers! We just look after each other and be sensible.” 

I get the feeling already that teachers in Nordic countries are treated like capable mature professionals who can think for themselves. When working in the Australian system I regularly feel like I am being treated like a child.


Pic: Here’s me breaching Australian policy and procedure by getting too close to a (stuffed) polar bear at Oslo Airport. Yes, yes, I know. What was I thinking? It COULD HAVE fallen on me.

Come on, show me your best OH&S risk-spotting skills and brainstorm what else could have possibly gone wrong.

James Phelps

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