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World's largest parents' evening fosters cooperation

Some 150 Finnish schools are partaking in a national parent-teacher video conference simultaneously on Wednesday. The aim of the conference is to get the parents of children more involved in the changing school system.

koulun kello, kirjainmalleja ja liitutaulu seinällä
Thousands of parents and teachers are sitting down to get to grips with Finnish education. Image: Sari Törmikoski / Yle

Finland is home to the world's largest single parent-teacher conference event, which kicks off Wednesday at 6 pm.

The idea behind the massive sit-down is to try to involve all of Finland's schools simultaneously. Some 150 schools throughout the country – that is nearly 20,000 parents – are taking part in the record-breaking PTA meeting.

The concept-driven event features talks on the changing school system and different educational approaches via three video lectures, with the hope that parents will become more involved in their children's schooling.

Questions asked at the world's largest parent-teacher powwow include the purpose of basic education, what's best about Finland's schools, and how Finnish schools should be developed.

Ulla Siimes, chair of the Finnish Parents' League, says that parents of school-aged children need to be involved in the changing school environment as effectively as possible.

"School as we know it is changing, and we want parents to be an active part of that change. Often personal experiences from decades ago can shape conceptions of how children are taught in school, and we need those impressions to be updated to our modern age," Siimes says.

Parents' evening 2.0

As Siimes sees it, traditional conferences between authoritarian educators and miffed mothers and fathers are a thing of the past. Her vision of a real dialogue is more like a teachable school day, where parents could accompany children for a day to see what school is actually like for them.

Scenarios where some sort of creative or disciplined action is required are better for engaging parents.

"Sitting around talking glumly is a waste of everyone's time," Siimes says. "When we asked parents what they'd like in terms of parents' evenings, they said they wanted to feel included and receive real insights into school life. Not just reports."

The world's largest parents' evening is organised in collaboration with interest group HundrED, the Finnish Parents' League, the Board of Education, the Trade Union of Education and the Ministry of Education and Culture.

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