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New Education Minister slams student isolation booths

Newly-minted Education Minister Krista Kiuru says she is concerned about the practice of placing students in isolation booths. The Minister was commenting on a case in which a high-spirited first-grade student was isolated for two months behind a solid wooden screen placed on his desk.

Image: Timo Jaakonaho / Lehtikuva

The aim of the isolation technique was to calm the active boy and help him concentrate during class. The solid wooden booth was fixed to the desk, essentially isolating the boy from the rest of the class. The child’s parents had been informed of the decision to build the wooden screen, which had been agreed on by the class teacher, the school principal and the school psychologist, according to media reports.

Commenting on the case Friday, Education Minister Krista Kiuru said that she did not approve of the practice.

“It is not consistent with modern education methods,” she added.

Differntiation could threaten international performance

Kiuru said that she was also concerned about the performance of Finnish schools in the international education comparison known as PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment.

According to Kiuru, Finland’s ongoing success in the evaluation has been based on equality at the grade school level, but schools appear to be diverging, in some cases because children with learning difficulties seem to wind up in certain institutions. She said that schools needed support now to put a stop to the differentiation trend.

“We need to improve equality for every child and young person in school. This means that we need to provide the possibility for support, especially for those who don't receive support at home,” she concluded.

The case of the seven-year old placed in the isolation booth was first reported in the tabloid magazine “Seura”.  It later emerged that the technique had been used in other schools to calm potentially disruptive students.