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"I'm blasted with WhatsApp messages": Finland adjusts to remote learning

This week our All Points North podcast explores how coronavirus is changing education in Finland.

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Finland's migration to remote learning is highlighting inequality in education. Image: Yle/Henrietta Hassinen

As in many other countries, coronavirus has forced parents and kids in Finland to learn and work from home. On Thursday Education Minister Li Andersson said schools in Finland would likely stay closed until the end of the school year in May -- news that hit home for many parents who are juggling to work from home and care for their children.

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Audio: Yle News

"It is easy to overestimate what parents who may also be working all day or managing younger children are able to supervise," Steve El-Sharawy told Yle News on Facebook. "I think some of the teachers have been a bit optimistic with the tasks set -- I genuinely don’t think they talk to each other, so some have given what must be three times more work than my kids could manage in a single lesson."

Many audience members pointed out that they had not embarked on homeschooling as teachers were still responsible for the curriculum.

Educator Heidi Tuominen weighed in on the issue, saying, "I work 10-12 hours a day, shooting videos, helping students through voice or video chats, creating and uploading materials, keeping everyone informed about the weekly goals, giving all students feedback of their daily work and collaborating with the families. I wouldn’t say I’ve handed the responsibility of the children’s education to the parents."

Growing inequality

Officials are meanwhile acknowledging that every child does not have the equipment or support at home to do all of their schoolwork online. Access to technology is highlighting inequality in Finnish education.

"All school children, including those in grades 1-3 are still strongly advised to stay home and participate in distance learning if possible," Helsinki mayor Jan Vapaavuori told residents this week.

Jaakko Salo, a development manager with teachers’ union OAJ, has pointed out that the coronavirus epidemic is exacerbating the differences in families' socio-economic circumstances. Kids also have varying abilities to learn and work independently.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Andersson called for schools to contact the parents of students who were skipping their online learning sessions, adding that if need be educators should contact child welfare services.

Join the conversation

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, just contact us via WhatsApp on +358 44 421 0909, on our Facebook or Twitter account, or at yle.news@yle.fi.

This week's show was presented by Zena Iovino and Denise Wall and produced by Mark B. Odom. Our sound designer and audio engineer this week was Anders Johansson.

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