The Nordic Educational System

As part of its Nordic Studies Program, IES invited two scholars who specialize in distinct sects of Nordic education to offer insight into the education systems in Finland and Denmark. The first presenter, Veronica Salovaara (Univ. of Helsinki) began her talk by describing Finland’s comparatively strong educational system: almost all children are enrolled in public schools, perform well on PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) tests, and receive free, nutritious lunches. Despite these favorable aspects, she noted that income inequality and child poverty rates are rising and that the educational system may not be as successful as it seems. Examining the two possible paths for Finnish children following basic education – upper secondary school and vocational training – Salovaara attempted to explain why students follow similar educational tracks as their parents if the educational system in Finland is so equal. To understand what factors affect children’s choices, Salovaara interviewed people, with these interviews culminating in her conclusion that students tend to follow similar educational trajectories as their parents due to their parents’ positions as motivators, guides, or role models for children as they seek opportunities to study at the university. Resultantly, she suggested that children often only have the illusion of choice and that schools sometimes contribute to the reproduction of structures of inequality.

Next, Jeppe Bundsgaard (Aarhus University) spoke about the Danish integration of technology into educational pedagogy. In his presentation, he outlined the recent history of technological use in Danish public schools, beginning in the 1990s with the integration of computers in various subjects and the introduction of network access to all schools, continuing into the 2000s with the investments and large national projects that aimed to promote the use of IT, and ending with the present trend of improved infrastructure and investments in digital learning material. Bundsgaard emphasized that, while Denmark is the leader in technological access for students and teachers, the Danes are committed to using technology to support progressive teaching pedagogy rather than allow teachers to relax and rely on their IT. Together, Salovaara and Bundsgaard offered valuable insight to an audience of 20 people into two different, famously strong Scandinavian educational systems.

You can watch both presentations below.