Why Finland’s Education System Works

Not too long ago, Finland’s education system was comparable to that in the U.S. How they changed their system is interesting, because by having “less” school they are achieving greater results. In the U.S., the system of “doing what you hate longer and harder” seems to be the prevailing logic driving the “scientific test-results” orientation to achievement. Both systems are multi-cultural and multi-lingual and have special populations served in the general education setting.

U.S. Approach To Reform

Children must enroll in school (kindergarten or first grade) at age 5. Many children have had preschool experiences because parents work or they are qualified for Head Start, Early Start, Even Start and other programs. Preschool standards involve readiness skills (standards directed), but not all children receive such instruction. Direct reading (decoding) instruction begins in kindergarten and ends in second grade. State (and federal) standards direct what instruction children receive from kindergarten through high school and in higher education settings (technical/vocational schools and colleges/universities). Children must remain in school until they reach the age of dropping out (varies by state but usually between 16 and 18 years of age) or they graduate by meeting all their state’s requirements. Standards, formal testing and statistics drive decision making by central administrators not in contact with students.

Finnish Approach To Reform

Children enroll in school at age 7, but they are given several years of preschool experiences which focus on language and physical development. The schools tend to be small because population centers are few; usually the schools have 300-400 students. Local teachers control their schools and curricula; they spend some of their work day developing and/or preparing materials to be used. Their school day is shorter than in the U.S. and they spend a lot of time outdoors, either in play or in applied “work” in the outdoor setting. Students attend elementary schools for 5-7 years, at which point they attend either a vocational schools or a higher education schools. Student skills and interests drive local decision making by teachers working with students.

What Are The Critical Differences?

The critical differences are:

· Preschool experiences are different: the U.S. focus on readiness (cognitive) skills development for reading and math, the Finnish focus on developmental skills in language and physical development. This translates into developmental readiness for instruction (Finland) or struggle to achieve (U.S.).

· School sizes differ: The U.S. consolidates and usually has 500+/school, the Finnish have few students so everyone receives attention. This translates into emotional security (Finland) or insecurity (U.S.).

· Children start reading instruction at different ages: the U.S. at age 5, the Finnish at age 7. This translates into being neurologically ready for instruction (Finland) or compensating with taxed memory skills (U.S.).

· Vocational schools are options for education in early adolescence. This translates into motivation (Finland) or non-motivational (U.S.).

· Decisions are based on testing/statistics (U.S.) or motivation and interests (Finland).

Conclusions

Focusing on behaviors and achievements for guiding change eliminates the humanness of education: interest, motivation, purpose. No matter how anyone looks at it, the U.S. system is a failure. Perhaps those making the decisions should relinquish the controls and let teachers who work with students and know what they need and want to learn make the decisions. Instead of rushing children to early achievement, maybe those who know about what happens to children developmentally will start driving the reforms.

Special Education Laws

Special education refers to the education of children with physical disorders or disabilities, psychiatric disorders, emotional distress, behavioral disorders, and learning disorders. Traditional educational techniques or school programs do not sufficiently meet the requirements of these children. Children with special education needs are guaranteed rights to services in schools under federal and state laws. These laws include Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA 1997), and No Child Left Behind (NCLB). These laws guarantee special education programs and financial assistance for disabled children and youth in the United States.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997 is a federal law that governs all special education services for children in the United States. The major objective of IDEA is to provide free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. The IDEA 2004 is a revision or reauthorization of IDEA 1997, which preserves the civil rights guarantees of IDEA 1997, but makes substantial changes regarding how schools determine whether a child has learning disability and needs special education services. Services to very young children, i.e., infants and toddlers, are also covered under the IDEA. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights legislative act, which proscribes discrimination against children with disabilities and provides them with reasonable accommodations. Under section 504, any person who has an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity is considered disabled.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) commands all educational institutions to meet the needs of children with psychiatric problems. In the United States, procedures for the implementation of the Federal laws and procedural safeguards are different in different states and therefore parents should have a good knowledge of the rules and regulations in their particular area. For any assistance, parents can always contact the regional office of the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.

4 Parenting Tips to Help You Enforce Special Education Law

Do you have a child with a disability who is receiving special education services?

Are you frustrated because it is hard to get needed educational services, for your child? Would you like a few parenting tips, to help you make sure that special education personnel follow IDEA? This article will discuss 4 parenting tips, that will help you in enforcing, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

IDEA enforcement by law is to be the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), which is part of the Department of Education. They are responsible in making sure that states, are in compliance with special education law. States are responsible for making sure that individual school districts comply with IDEA.

The reality is that parents are the main enforcement mechanism of special education law. Below are 4 tips to help you ensure that your school district is complying with IDEA, for the benefit of your child.

1. Develop a working knowledge of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. By doing this, you will know where to look when you need a particular section of the law. For Example: If you would like to look at what is required for a free appropriate public education (FAPE), you would look under 300.101. Or Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) at 300.115.

2. Develop a working knowledge of your state regulations on special education (This is how the state is going to comply with IDEA). Some states regulations are actually better for children and parents, than federal law. By understanding these, you will be able to use them to ensure that your school district is complying with the educational law. You can get a copy of your state regulations from your state board of education.

3. Bring copies of the laws with you to any IEP meeting for your child, and place them on the table. You will be able to look up certain sections during the meeting, in case you need them.

By bringing up the special education laws that apply, you will make sure that you school district is following them. You also want to make sure, that the special education personnel in your district understand that you know the laws, and that you will be making sure that they follow them.

Also, when you write letters to school personnel, always quote IDEA or the state regulations, for special education when you can. This will help bolster your case, for whatever you are asking for.

For example: IDEA states, that my child has the right to a free appropriate public education, which I believe that she is not receiving at this time. In order for my child with a learning disability to receive FAPE, she must receive the appropriate amount of reading remediation, using simultaneous-multi sensory reading program such as Orton-Gillingham.

4. If your school district is in non compliance with the procedures of IDEA, consider filing a state complaint. The state complaint is filed with your state board of education; special education department.

The complaint should state the violation, the number in IDEA that is being violated, what your evidence is of the violation, and also the proposed resolution of the violation. Also, you can put more than one violation in a complaint, but number them for easier reading and tracking.

By doing these four things, you will be able to understand when special education personnel are not following special education law. It is sad that parents are the main enforcement arm of IDEA, but it is reality! Good luck, and stay focused, for the benefit of your child!

Education Law – 10 Things You Didn’t Know

Just like in the commercial world, the education sector is bound by laws and regulations. Schools, Colleges, University and other educational establishments are increasing having to rely on legal assistance in order to ensure that the law is adhered to, and to settle disputes.

Education Law solicitors can advise on all legal issues that affect the education sector. Here are 10 of the common issues that Education Law covers.

1. Generating Income

Schools and other educational establishments are looking at different ways to create more income. By complying with education laws, income, and return on investment can be maximised.

2. Compliance

Educational establishments need to comply with discrimination laws and other workers’ and pupils’ rights. Staff and pupils shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their gender, age, skin colour, race, religious beliefs, and sexuality, or for any other reason.

3. Special Eduational Needs

Schools that teach pupils with Special Educational Needs need to ensure that they are fully compliant with the relevant laws. Sometimes there are appeals and tribunals.  And experienced Education Law professional can help either side to ensure that their voice is heard.

4. Grants and Loans

Some schools are fee paying schools, and so contracts will need to created and amended as necessary. In addition, grants and scholarships will need to be distributed evenly, and fairly. If there are any complaints or discrepancies, and Education Law solicitor will be able to help.

5. Interaction with the Private Sector

The education sector is looking at more ways of working with businesses, so that students and graduates have the relevant skills that businesses need. Education Laws ensure that the pupils are not exploited or undervalued.

6. Pupil Behaviour

Pupil behaviour has been increasingly in the news recently, and not always for the right reasons. From truancy to violence in the classroom, Education Law solicitors can advise either party to help achieve a suitable outcome.

7. Intellectual Property Rights

Computer and other technical work is more prevalent in schools and colleges nowadays, and the issue of Intellectual Property is increasingly important. Education Law can help advise on the legalities of work produced at school.

8. Students and Admissions

Popular schools, colleges and universities are often oversubscribed. This often leads to unhappy parents and pupils. Education Law can help ensure that all policies and procedures are followed properly, and that those who have not been admitted haven’t been discriminated against.

9. Land and Property

School, Colleges and Universities are increasingly either in need of more land and property, or trying to sell off unused land or property. Education Law makes sure that the acquisition or disposal of land and property is done properly.

10. Accidents at School

Unfortunately accidents at school do happen, and these can sometimes be serious. Pupils and staff have a right to expect that the school buildings and equipment is safe, and there could be grounds for compensation. Accidents whilst at school could include any slips or trips in the playground, or on the sports pitch, as well as incidents in the chemistry laboratory or on a geography field trip. Education Law solicitors help to ensure that cases are dealt with properly.

Now you know more about it, if you are involved in Education, how could an Education Law solicitor be able to help you?