Teacher Education at the University of Oulu

Yesterday we were given a tour of the Faculty of Education at the University of Oulu by Mathematics education lecturer Vesa-Matti Sarenius.

In Finland, all teachers have a masters level education, which takes them five years. For their courses they take 3 or 4 subjects, with secondary teachers having a ‘major’ in their subject, and primary teachers usually majoring in pedagogic studies and taking 2 or 3 ‘minor’ subjects as specialisms. Primary teachers also take a core course which covers all of the subjects they will be teaching, which Vesa-Matti explained to us in his lecture I blogged last week.

All students study for free, and can access considerable subsidies to support them. In the canteen the standard lunch cost €7.21 for visitors, a little less for staff and only €2.60 for students.

We were given a comprehensive tour of the facilities, and one of the things which struck me most was the strong emphasis on technology and textiles education. The facilities for this in terms of workshops and studios were fantastic, not surpassing given the impressive facilities in every school I have visited.

I spoke with one lecturer who was building his own acoustic guitar from scratch in the workshop. He showed me some work that might be more typical in schools; a model of a bee with legs made of wire coat hangers. Inside there was an electronic mechanism made of lego-type building blocks which spun two off-centre weights on an electric motor. This caused the bee to vibrate, and move forwards whilst flapping its wings. The lecturer explained to me that the mechanism was designed in a similar way to the vibration function on a mobile phone, so was a good way of teaching children the basic concepts of these devices.

I asked what age of children would be making such a project; he replied that it would probably be kindergarten level, so younger than age 7. Pretty sophisticated stuff for children that age, I thought.

In the textiles rooms we found many traditional looms and spinning equipment, all of which seemed to be in very regular use. Across the technology education department there seemed to be a strong sense of the importance of craftsmanship, and a sense of the history of these skills and activities and their centrality to Finnish culture. This sense of history is something I noticed also in the Primary schools with their collections of old resources, not in use, but kept for posterity. I think this brings an interesting slant on some of the discussions happening at the moment in the UK around cultural capital.

A similar ethos was in evidence in the large museum of stuffed animals in the Faculty of Education, with smaller but impressive collections in some of the schools we had visited. One school had decided to remove all of these animals from the glass cases so the children could appreciate them further by touching them, and their corridors were lined with stuffed birds and small mammals.

More to come on the Finnish lessons I have observed…

Posts from my trip to Finland are all available here.

Related posts:

Finnish primary school visit 3
In discussion with a Finnish primary head teacher
A visit to a Finnish primary school


  1. Karoliina Liukko

    I’m glad I found your blog – I think I met you and Miles at textiles room at uni… It’s interesting to read about your thoughts in Finland as I was studying in Plymouth last semester!

  2. Your report on the Finnish education system shows that when a nation focuses on people rather than on paper work, the results are stunning.

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