Eduardo Andere book : The Future of Schools and Teacher Education / How Far Ahead is Finland ?
4.5 The Fifth School: Muuramen Lukio, Muurame, Finland
I visited this lukio twice, one in late 2016 and one on May 21, 2018. The latter
visit to update the information from the first. Few things have changes, they
are noted below.
This is the only lukio or high school, in the municipality or Kunta of Muurame. Muurame is a relatively rich area since there are
many companies located here, around 600. Actually, the kunta is an entrepreneurship oriented one. This is one of the
reasons why this school is a special and different type of lukio. A small digression: When people in Finland, teachers and
students alike, refer to yearly grades in high school, they don’t refer to them
as grade 10, 11, or 12, but grades 1, 2 or 3. This is an informal practice
since there are no formal or official grades in high school in Finland.
Muuramen lukio was founded in 1996, so the school and the building are 22
years old. Well, the school is one year older, 1995. For one year, they were
housed by the middle high school (lower secondary grades 7 to 9), which is next
door. Today, both schools share facilities like science laboratories, arts and
music classrooms, and a huge indoor gymnasium. The schools are located right
next to the cultural community center. The two schools and the community center
share the same library. This is often the case in some municipalities. There is
a large municipal library nearby. This is often the case in many
This school is what one could call a
“theme” school. It is an academically oriented school like all lukios, but some of the students go
through an enterprise track and can take up to nine courses during their
studies. Over the years, only two students have completed all 9 courses offered
but quite a few have taken several courses. In the beginning the entrepreneurs
from Muurame wanted a lukio, but not
any lukio, they wanted a high school
with an entrepreneurial orientation.
How to do that? Well, the best way to teach
entrepreneurship to students is by giving the students a hands-on experience
about companies and company work. So, the school decided to establish a company
with legal and tax status. After some years of design, decisions and paperwork,
the company was born in 2003. Everything was done with the students: Paperwork,
planning, logo design, naming and marketing. The name of the company is Työosuuskunta Kisälli (meaning something
like: cooperative apprenticeship company).
The students do the employers’ work (in formality there is a legal board
with the principal and 2 teachers and one former student who became an
entrepreneur, and one teacher from a polytechnic university) and employees who
do all the work. The adults monitor the company in the background.
The students govern and run the company. In
this way, they learn about the working and company life. They pay salaries and
taxes, promote networking, contact suppliers and clients, in a safe
environment. The company’s revenue after 15 years of operation has been around
220 000 Euros, 10, 000 to 30, 000 per year, or so. Last year, 2017 the company
made 19, 000 euros. The salaries go to
the students. The company engages in all kinds of activities, and they relate
to other companies to cast deals. There are six parent companies that work with
the school and mentor the students.
Students learn how to make contacts and how
to make deals. They can do many things, for example: clean windows, dog
sitting, baby-sitting, trash recollection, recycling, distribute gifts or
products from companies, mowing the grass, websites to new companies, and many
more. They learn about work in real
working conditions. The community would like them to be entrepreneurs if they
want; and if they want they learn how to do it here. And this is good because
Finland—as per the opinion of the rehtori—lacks entrepreneurs.
The students also do course work about
entrepreneurship. They learn about teamwork, project based learning, and
individualized learning plans (“what I can do? What have I done earlier
(hobbies)? And what can I do later with new learning?”). The principal said:
Only 20% of learning
comes from the school; 80% comes from outside. In other times, the relationship
was 30/70. Most of the learning comes from outside the school, such as,
friends, home, networks and hobbies. We try to support the development of skills
from outside the school.
So, every starting class gets one godfather
company to work with and learn from it. At the beginning of the school year
somebody, possibly the owner of the company comes to the school and has various
programs planned for the first-year students and the homeroom teachers. To help
the transition a teacher goes to the company for a full day to get acquainted
with the business as well as planning the upcoming events. For example, one of
these companies manages a golf course, another a Spa resort, there is also the
Red Cross, a local K-market store, a day-care center and a retirement home for
the elderly. Students then engage in all sorts of activities, they can take
care of children or elders, bake ginger bread before Christmas, sing or
entertain, etc. Another company involved in the program makes lamps, so the
students can make, design or sell lamps. The most recent companies are one that
sports’ events, one the makes clothes owned by one women, and company that
makes high quality instruments to measure things. Actually the owner of the
latter company is a former student of our school.
When the owner of the company comes to the
school, she or he makes a narrative about their lives, and all first high
school graders will hear the story. The school also promotes story-telling,
orally or digitally, so that students get more involved. And the school also
works within an entrepreneurship culture: teacher teams, sustainability,
efficiency and recycling. The team work with teachers is crucial because the
school is run under the principle of shared leadership. The principal said: “My
task is to increase the leadership in all the members of the school community:
teacher leadership, student leadership, staff leadership. When we do new
programs, we try to promote those skills. When we do teacher training we stress
on those skills. We support that teachers act more like “teacherpreneurs”
developing their work and see possibilities around them. If they have certain
skills on their own they are free to promote them and even sell them outside
the school in their own projects.”
According to the principal, there are 380 lukios in Finland and only 5 of them
have received a certificate for sustainability. This lukio was the first one to obtain a certificate. The principal
Our focus nor,
in 2018, for a three-year period, is 21st century skills: digital
abilities, teamwork, internal leadership, critical thinking, entrepreneurial
thinking. Our international project with Erasmus + (a European Union program)
is called Future Makers with the Dutch people.
To promote learning by doing,
sustainability, teamwork, and leadership the school has a 1-day-1-night forest
retreat camp. The school rents the tents from the army and Voluntary defense
training program in Finland works in co-operation with the students and
teachers alike in planning and implementing this camp that is referred to as
Forest Camp. The students also learn from firemen how to put out a fire, and
all kinds of other tasks. Each tent houses 14 to 16 students and one or two
teachers, and each tent-group has a student leader. The teachers in each tent
also follow the student leaders. That is how the school teaches leadership. The
They don’t learn
to lead if they don’t lead. We teach and promote leadership in all aspects of
the school: teacher leadership, student leadership, cooks’ leadership and
workers’ leadership. How? By giving them
responsibility and trust. We rely on them. If we trust them they do their best.
We also put them in situations when they face new challenges and problems.
The school has a motto: “Flexible learning community.”
“Flexible?” Because the world changes so rapidly, the school has to change the
scope. “Learning?” Because the learning happens all the time, the school
facilitates learning all the time. “Community?” Because the school supports
everyone, all the students get support. “We often use the word tribe, Muurame
Lukio Tribe. Students, parents, teachers and stakeholders (companies,
municipality, supporters) are members of this tribe. The families are our
customers. If we do a good job in customer relationship with the families, they
will want to come to us. According to my knowledge the best size tribe is 160
people. We are a little bit more (220 students) but still small enough to know
all our students by name. Small is better than big, in this case”—the principal
We are pioneers
The school also has a focus on information
and communications technologies, mainly with the use of tablets, virtual
environments, flipped lessons, digital cameras, smartboards and virtual reality
devices. They have grown over the years. The principal puts it like this: “We
are pioneers”. All teachers have in their classrooms a laptop which is hooked
to a digital camera that completely replaced the old overhead projectors, that
now are museum pieces as one of the teachers told me. All classrooms also have
smart-boards and LED projectors. By decision of the teachers and the principal,
all the teachers sit in the right-hand corner in front of the classroom. The
idea is to stress the fact that the students are at the center, that they are
The principal expanded: “We have now in
2018, a virtual reality project which has interested other high schools in
Finland, so the pioneering continues. The next step will be that we will apply
money granted to us by the Finnish National Agency for Education (OPH) for an
Artificial Intelligence project, networking with three more high schools.”
There are a lot of hands-on activities but
students still go to classes, sit for exams, do homework, and take at least 75
courses to finish the lukio studies,
and then during their last year at the lukio
they sit for the matriculation exams.
The matriculation exam is an exit test that
students have to take in Finnish and in at least three different subjects out
of the following: English, Swedish, French, German, Spanish, Russian,
Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, History, Social Studies, Biology,
Geography, Health Education, Religion and the Sami language. One out of the
languages or Mathematics must be Advanced level studies (A-level English is
usually a subject for almost everybody) and some students take several A-level
tests (A-level English, A-level Mathematics and A-level Swedish are possible in
Muurame Senior High School). Students also choose more than the minimum four
tests or subjects in total since taking and approving with high marks increases
their entrance chances at the university and career of their choice. However,
this could be controversial since most university programs put more emphasis on
the success of entrance examinations.
The principal added that “a big change will
happen in 2020, when the universities, nationally get rid of the entrance
exams. We are here worried because that means that the students will have to
choose their career path when they are 15 years old ( at the end of grade 9).
Some career options will be closed or more complicated to get in, if they don’t
choose from the beginning in lukio
the proper subjects, for example, A-level math, or languages in general. If
students fail in matriculation exams, it will be more difficult to get to the
Students have to learn their subjects but
also cross curriculum or transversal abilities/competences, such as: Writing,
communicating, economics, marketing, presentations, collaboration.
According to the three students that I was
able to interview:
Most of the time
we do academic work, go to classes and study subjects because we want to pass the
matriculation exams and go to university.
The principal sums up everything:
We are a normal lukio with an entrepreneurship twist, a
sustainability focus and a technological environment based on mobiles, tablets
and a good enough WiFi network.”
I observed two classes, one at the first
year of studies (age 16) and one at the second year of studies (age 17). In
both cases the teachers based the teaching around the LED projector and either
the digital camera or the laptop. Both sessions were interactive; questions and
answers back and forth with teachers, and both with the students’ desks and
tables, arranged in a very traditional way. There were 27 students in the first
class and 20 in the second one. Class size may vary from 10 to 30+ students.
The average is around 22 students.
I also observed the principal’s class with
senior students: “Social studies”. Today’s topic: “Welfare system in Finland.”
This time a small class of around 10 students, sitting in nice comfortable
sofas making a semicircle facing the teacher and the screen. Again, and again
all the students confirm that they have to study a lot, that they have a lot of
homework, that they take classes and subjects and that they sit for exams at
the end of lukio.
But not all classrooms are arranged in a
traditional way. I also observed a social and history classroom where the
student tables and chairs were arranged by clusters. Teachers agreed:
There is no one
way of teaching. Traditional or modern ways of arranging the physical learning
environment inside the classroom can work very well.
Then I interviewed two teachers with the
pre-written questionnaire, but the answer of one teacher caught my attention
because I had not received that answer in all my former rounds of interviews in
Finland. The question was: “What is among all factors the main factor of
success of Finnish school education?” Answer: “Non-authoritarian relationship
with the students.”
Muuramen school is the only lukio of this municipality. It has a
student population of 223 students, taught by 20 teachers, one psychologist,
one student counselor, one special education teacher, one social worker and one
school nurse. The population of the municipality is 10,000.
One more thing it is happening in the lukio is the School on the Move Project.
This a national project designed and funded by OPH. So far 50 lukios have
gotten into this project. Muurame lukio is one of the. So, you move? The
In double (90
minutes) lessons, the students have to stand up, do some exercise, walk through
the corridors or go outside for a few minutes, and our student tutors promote
games like basketball, floorball, football, or all kind of physical funny
games. There is a group of students that get trained about the exercises and
they lead other students into it. Last Fall, for example, we organized our
school own Olympics, with groups of students representing different countries
with country uniforms and national anthems.
Interview with the principal: Aki Puustinen. Muuramen
What type of
pedagogy does the school follow?
thinking, team working and project learning. We have a student-oriented system
at the school, with many virtual reality devices, lots of company
collaboration, and godfather companies. Every group has a godfather company.
What are the
three main differences in the new curriculum?
new curriculum for lukio became
effective this academic year (2016). The first important change is that schools
should do phenomenon-based learning, but we have been doing that for 20 years.
So, it is not a big change for us. Here the phenomenon is: Entrepreneurship. In
sustainability studies we do mostly same things, based on phenomenon learning.
Both areas cover many topics, like written, oral, creativity and presenting
skills. They also connect with communities outside the school. They take
classes with two teachers in these two subjects. One plus one is three, because
teachers inspire each others
in school should be connected to the life of the students. We also have been
doing this for many years.
change: evaluation. Peer to peer, self-evaluation, observation and constant
feedback to students. Section by section, during the six-week sessions and
during the whole academic year. Each section lasts more or less six weeks. And
maybe some kind of parents’ surveys.
the local (kunta and school
curriculum) within the framework of the national curriculum will also have some
learning in entrepreneurship and sustainability studies.
leadership of all kinds (student, teacher, staff). We also collaborate a lot
people, respect the teachers and the students.
Several ways: Two
subjects in one course together. Several subjects in one theme, like the forest
project: How to build a forest camp with
200 students and 20 teachers?
Collaboration with the army, the firemen, other groups; communication
with staff, students, radio, TV, written press; branding the school; marketing
for the school and products. We have also tailor-made a course from two
subjects: Biology and chemistry. This will help students to get skills and
knowledge to apply for medical programs.
We are planning another integration course: Physics and ICT. In these
integrated courses, we have two teachers teaching the class at the same time.
Next year, in 2019, the subject will change to cybersecurity and social
studies. The cybersecurity comes from the university mostly. The new curriculum
forces the lukios to have some
collaboration with the universities. In Artificial Intelligence we will
collaborate with a military higher education center in Helsinki where they
train officers for the Finnish military.
entrepreneurship course takes two six-week long periods or sections in Autumn.
Last year I gave a task of marketing the school to get more students to
register. In Spring, we also run two six-week long courses and then can do
Students still have
to take 75 courses to graduate, so little change here. Students come at 8.30 in
the morning and leave 5 minutes after 4 pm. Lessons last 45 minutes each, but
some lessons last 90 minutes. There is the free lunch break for 55 minutes, and
one or two 10 of five minutes’ breaks so they can change classrooms.
What is among
all factors the main factor of success in Finnish school education?
What is missing
in schools in Finland?
Although in this school we have been allocated extra money to run the entrepreneurship
program but we are always in need for more money especially now that the
economy is tight in general in Finland. We always think there is lack of money,
so we say, “do something” not only complain. Discover project, and if one has
good ideas, the money will come.
Students and teachers have lunch in a big
dining hall, they take shifts and share facilities with the middle school
students. Students don’t pay for the lunch in this lukio (each municipality decide if the lukio or upper secondary students have free lunch), but teachers at
the lukio pay. Teachers in some
elementary or lower secondary schools may get lunch free if they supervise
children during lunch time.
During lunch we were joined by the mayor of
the kunta. I have seen this in other
municipalities. It is a sign of democracy but also that the distance of power
in Finland between the boss and the subordinate is very small.
On May 21, 2018
Authorization: I have read and hereby
approve the reference to me or the school or quotation, made by Prof. Eduardo
Andere, in the Manuscript tentatively entitled: "Finnish education:
Interactions, phenomena, contexts, and Policy." I understand that there
might be some editorial or form changes that will probably be made to the
manuscript before publishing. As long as they keep the main line of argument or
narrative in the quotations, it is ok with me too.
Puustinen, Muuramen lukio Teacher