In an article on children’s happiness (Iltalehti 6.10.2020), Pirjo Suhonen spoke about the assessments she had received from her Korean friend regarding Finnish child-rearing. According to a Korean friend, Finns fail in raising children because we want children to be happy but not successful. Many will probably disagree with this and mark the criticism as unreasonable. However, this is a good place to reflect on criticism and related perspectives a little more broadly. The matter has been noticed elsewhere as well, so it is certainly not just an idea put forward by one person.

Happiness and success – maybe not contradict each other after all?

Happiness, balance and success are all aspirations. Happiness and balance indicate the success of a person’s spiritual growth process. By being happy and balanced, a person has thus reached some degree of ideal state, culturally and taking into account the growth environment. Similarly, the same can be said for success in the United States, for example: it is also based on the surrounding culture and growth environment, and therefore cannot be seen as a mere negative goal. Success also creates happiness and balance. When analyzing success, often different values of life, diligence, and purposefulness are behind the goal. Meaningful doing, development and relationships are the basis of happiness, balance and success. The demonization of success should be stopped as a social value, as success is valuable and radiates to more than just the successful person himself.

Are we demanding enough?

From the perspective of the use of society’s resources, the question arises as to whether public funds and educational resources are used correctly. Why provide quality basic education if, however, students are not wanted or required to succeed? Follow up with more value-based questions: is a goalless life too easy, or should it even be allowed? Is the role of society now so patronizing that targeted success is not required, or is it not valued? For many, the bar seems to be falling down unnecessarily. There would be resources, but they are not used.

Concerns are heightened by the fact that parents do not require effort from their children either. How has this come about, hasn’t anyone noticed anything? It is intellectual laziness to value purely goal-oriented success unilaterally, so that a culture that emphasizes success would not be quite valid, at least in part. In this case, the successful ones in different fields are lifted to the stand. That is not a bad thing: this is how it is hidden, e.g. in working life. If we close our eyes and condemn the thought that the thought-emphasizing thought pattern is evil, then can’t the other end of the segment, studying without goal-oriented success, be considered equally evil? If education and training is just about trying to educate a young person with a good self-esteem, really an incompetent member of society, it is scary, because Finland lives off exports. We must strive to increase our knowledge and skills so that, as a nation, we can maintain our place in international competition or even maintain the structures of our welfare state. If we are not allowed to acquire well-skilled and motivated students with domestic forces, we must definitely build a national model to attract foreign students who will stay in Finland to work after their studies.

Equality or not?

It is often argued that the starting point is not the same for everyone. This is quite true. It is part of life, and we must accept it. Intervening in such a way as to equalize everyone’s progress is, in practice, a waste of resources and, in its own way, a nonsense of misuse of resources. Before, there were level courses in schools, where the ratio of learning to resources used was better. The paradox of a talented student is that he is not allowed to realize himself. Without making a big issue, a gifted student could very well be guided to move on to more demanding content and progress at his own pace.

If the Korean has noticed this value model and upbringing, which is longing for success, the scales should gradually fall out of sight in Finland as well. It is boring to say or stigmatize that their model is one-sided or too successful. The spectrum of learning needs to accommodate more dispersion, individuality and diversity. Taking care of the weakest and giving the talented the opportunity to move at their own pace.

One counter-argument to the pursuit of success is the general interest of all and society as a whole. The current approach is justified by the fact that social segregation is reduced and thus less social inequality is created. I don’t think, or do I believe when studies and ratings hit me, that it’s not worth investing individually in the tops or encouraging success. At present, social policy has been valued higher than education policy. At the very least, I would like to support my own child to succeed and give him support in his development on the learning path.

In Finland and the other Nordic countries, equal opportunities are firmly adhered to. One should open our eyes and recognize that the current model is not particularly equal either. Strangely, society wants to stick to it and refuses to see as rich the diverse meadow of public education and the complementary private and third sectors, where all flowers are allowed to grow if conditions exist. In the prevailing equal way of teaching, girls, regardless of age, are in the majority in higher education, and minorities are a fresh exception among the majority population at tertiary level.

We need the develop new skills for the future, considering the characteristics of the individual

In the article, Suhonen continues that a balanced young person with good self-esteem can achieve their dreams if they want, and never knows what skills will be needed in the future. This will certainly be the case in the long run, but in the future, people’s education and skills in particular will create more opportunities to succeed in an ever-globalizing world. This should be highlighted more strongly. In practice, combining programming skills with some other skills produces unique competence. Finnish know-how and success in particular should once again be raised. Nowadays, other skills such as electronic communication, social media and information retrieval skills are valued, but the fundamentals of key subjects may be in retrospect. Evidence of this is the high school students’ math skills, which have declined significantly over the past 20 years.

Once living standards are already high and, as in previous decades, study no longer raises young people who have struggled from modest rural backgrounds to a lower standard of living, new means must be introduced. If one wants to invest in development, it could take place taking into account the characteristics of the modern individual, one’s own way of studying and motivation. In this case, a “all-for-all” teaching common to all should be thrown away and offered alternatives that support the individual, at least at some point in the training. Motivation plays a key role in individual learning, at least in advanced studies, different individual learning models should be supported.

In primary education, it is important for the student to adopt good foundations in the subjects, and in secondary education, attention should already be paid to different tendencies. The Finnish upper secondary school clearly emphasizes its role in basic education. It comes to mind that basic education must be acquired in its own time. If it is not appreciated, then why bother with it anymore? Do we get mathematically oriented scientists or linguistic geniuses? The idea arises that why should you focus on anything else, as long as you know how to write and calculate math well, the rest is then taken care of according to your own motivation. This, too, should be widely discussed throughout society. At least the University of Helsinki, as a “university of education”, should bring out the perspective more widely than just at the tables of public administration, the message must be addressed to the people more furiously.

Check out our previous blog to find out how we at Eximia solve learning challenges in the future and now during the coronavirus – and not only in Finland, but also on an international scale.