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The Historical Background of School System and Teacher Image in Finland

Merja Paksuniemi

The purpose of the book is to identify and describe the teacher image that was inherent at the teacher training colleges in Finland during 1921 to 1945. It also points out what kind of pedagogical philosophies influenced the foundation of the Finnish school system. The book provides a historical point of view of teaching at the teacher training colleges and introduces the pedagogical methods which were used. The focus is on a teacher training college for women, located in Northern Finland, Tornio.

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2. Theoretical starting points

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2.1. The Finnish teacher image—requirements and changes The actions and work of a teacher are shaped by curricula as well as vari- ous guidelines and desires as to the kind of behaviour that teachers are expected to emulate6. Curricula form a model for teachers to follow since social goals and influence are transferred into the curricula during the planning stage7. Before the development of curricula and the various pro- cesses of reform that have been undertaken, teaching was primarily a top- down, book-centred system. The textbook acted as a practical curriculum in the absence of any official material.8 Behind the textbooks, on the other hand, is an operationalized curriculum that can be adjusted by the authori- ties. Textbooks are controlled either by the state or some other entity that decides on the approval or rejection of the material.9 Due to reforms in 1985 and 1994, responsibility for teaching was transferred to the teachers and schools. The role of the teacher in the Finnish school society changed. The teacher became a supervisor, planned his or her own work, and was expected to work in cooperation with various parties, such as the students, parents, and other teachers. Today, teachers must work in an atmosphere of dynamic change, which increases pressure and expectations concerning teachers.10 A teacher’s ability to influence his or her school’s society is minimal until he or she establishes a sufficiently strong position within the working 6 Lapinoja 2006, 155. 7 Kujala 2008, 48–49. 8 Ropo & Huopainen 2001,...

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