Minister of Education and Culture, Sanni Grahn-Laasonen, got to know the operations and school children at the Lauste school. Third-graders asked about their visitor’s background: ‘Are you the Minister of Teaching? Kind of like the head of the student body for all of Finland?’
The Lauste school in eastern Turku has long traditions in teaching children with an immigrant background. The school was built over 40 years ago to serve the residents of eastern Turku; an area which today has many immigrant residents.
– Approximately 63% of our students do not speak Finnish as their native language. Next year, the share of Finnish native speakers will increase, and the percentage of other languages will drop to 61%. The Finnish speakers in the region also trust our school, and for good reason! This is a charming school, which must be one of the most delightful places to work in Turku, praises head teacher Ilkka Kaljonen.
Children with an immigrant background have integrated easily into the Lauste and Varissuo schools, even though the variety of native languages in both is quite extensive: 21 different native languages in Varissuo, and 16 in Lauste.
– Due to difficulties with language skills, there is a large number of students who receive special support and intensified support, and we feel that the challenges with school work will only increase with new nationalities coming in. However, multiculturalism is part of the everyday life at our school, and the differences of people are only a factor which enriches our everyday work. With our committed staff, everything is running smoothly, even though life sometimes challenges us, says head teacher Nana Lampi from the Varissuo school.
Upper secondary education after a pause
Even with multicultural primary schools, there are not many immigrant children in upper secondary schools. Young people with an immigrant background don’t often go directly to upper secondary school after finishing upper comprehensive school. According to Timo Jalonen, Director of the Education Division, only approximately 4% of the students in upper secondary schools have an immigrant background.
– A lot of the people take a bit of time before entering upper secondary education. They feel that at 16, they don’t have the Finnish skills necessary for the theoretical upper secondary school, which is why they often first apply for vocational education and only after that, to upper secondary school as adult education. A clear majority of the students in the upper secondary adult education have an immigrant background. So, we can say that quite many immigrants do complete upper secondary education, they just do it at a significantly later age than native Finns, says Jalonen.
Minister of Education and Culture Sanni Grahn-Laasonen feels that a particular language support could be one alternative worth consideration. The support could follow the child all the way to upper secondary school, to make the path as simple as possible and available to more people.
– It would be good if the potential evident in immigrants could be developed already in upper secondary school. This could be worth a pilot project, and why not here in Turku?, Grahn-Laasonen suggests.
– At the same time, we can see that the age profile of the immigrant population is growing younger. This could mean that in the future, immigrants will be so well integrated into the Finnish society and language that they could be ready for upper secondary school directly from upper comprehensive school, says Chair of the Education Committee Kaija Hartiala.
Learning a language, particularly learning an academic language, is a slow process which requires plenty of practice and linguistic support. The Lauste school has invested in this process, through offering immigrant children a supported teaching group for extra support in humanities and natural sciences. Coordinator of the Schools on the Move project and teacher at the Lauste school, Annukka Muuri, feels that this model could be useful in other cities as well.
An active way of life for all children
Special support for teaching immigrants with State funding
Over the past few years, the City of Turku has received allocated state funding, which has made it possible to hire a special needs teacher for the first and second grades at Lauste school, for example.
– This is an excellent system. We hope to be able to maintain these practices, which we have found to be good, through similar little incentives, Kaljonen says. Nana Lampi is hoping for the same thing, even though the schools have been forced to let go of some of the assisting staff. The special needs assistants are a significant support factor for the teachers as well as the children.
The Minister of Education and Culture promised to particularly secure the state funding for ensuring the equality of education, based on the unemployment rate and share of immigrants in the municipality.
– I hope that it could be increased and allocated to regions which need it the most.
From Schools on the Move to a way of life
The Education Division and Recreation Division are participating eagerly in the Schools on the Move project, and the expectations are high. Sports Services Director Markus Kalmari feels that Turku’s Schools on the Move project may have something to give to the entire country.
– We could even say that it is a programme of children’s sports, which can give all children an athletic way of life, and offer early positive experiences about sports. We aim to carry out the project in cooperation with organisations and schools, rather than the two excluding each other. We believe that by supporting each other, we can construct a coherent athletic culture. Turku has the preconditions, history, and atmosphere for this, Kalmari says happily.
The actions within the Schools on the Move project are partially based on a survey carried out by the LIKES Research Centre for Physical Activity and Health. The teachers who responded in the survey particularly longed for education regarding functional teaching methods, but also participation, emotional skills and basic exercise skills, which are focal points of physical education in the new curriculum.
Schools on the Move promotes the learning in children and young people by adding movement into every school day, and reducing the time spent sitting down. The functional objectives of the project take their practical form through activity during the school day and easy access hobby activities.
– Basically, we ensure that the children get enough exercise and physical activity throughout the day. Not only during the school day, but after school activities are also included in the overall picture. We have people who get the children on the move during recess, and others to run hobby activities, says coordinater Marie Rautio-Sipilä.
An entirely new Turku model has been built as the cover for the hobby activities. A total of 176 hobby groups meet in the schools in Turku every week, run by teachers, sports club instructors, or both.
– The hobby activities are intended to bring more chances of activity as close to the students as possible, and to train the basic exercise skills of the children and young people, which refers to the motor skills that are also connected to learning, says Marie Rautio-Sipilä.
The Schools on the Move activities are not only carried out according to the terms of the teachers and instructors; the students are also welcome to participate in the design, carrying out, and evaluation of the operations.
– Separate funding has been granted to the schools for buying exercise equipment which they can select themselves. Maybe the children will also be more careful with equipment, when they have participated in acquiring them and calculating their costs, Annukka Muuri says.
In ten years, all students in comprehensive schools in Turku will get enough exercise
A national total of 21 million euros has been allocated for a three-year period of the Schools on the Move top project. The intention is that a permanent operating model could be established by using state funding, and after the funding period, the operations would run with municipal funding and initiative.
– Our vision is that Schools on the Move will become part of the permanent operating culture, and that all students in comprehensive schools will get enough activity for their health. Sports services, for example, are in the process of renewing the sports services for children and young people. In terms of hobby activities, partnership opportunities with sports clubs should be considered in order to get the children on the move: could the cooperation achieve a more socially responsible operating culture, in which business life could also be included, for example? Not only to support a certain hobby, but rather to support a more active way of life, Kalmari says.