Seminar: Inclusion and education in Scandinavia

Run by The Victoria Institute at Victoria University on the 27th of November 2014, this seminar consisted of four talks by researchers from Denmark and Finland. The main focus was on inclusive practices within these education systems. I have reversed the order of the talks because it makes more sense to me to move from national to local.

The case of Denmark: Inclusive efforts at a crossroads – Susan Tetler

This talk gave an excellent overview of the reforms for the Danish education system. She showed the background of the shift in the numbers of students that have been moved from the regular school system in to the special schools from 2000 where it was 2% until 2012 where it had become 5.6%. These special schools received approximately 30% of all the schools funding in 2012. This reform appears to part of a larger movement to increase teacher’s contact hours and work load

The policy framework, now in it’s third year of implementation aim for 2015 is for only 4% of students been moved into special schools. Each municipality has been given autonomy to implement this in different ways, with a range from token effort to active teacher support.

How do teachers experience counselling as an inclusive tool – Charlotte Riis Jensen

This talk was more practice focuses for the teachers implementing Denmark’s Inclusive schools policy (See the talk by Susan Tetlet, below). The following cartoon was included in the talk and frames the starting point for some of the teachers, who at the start of the change were considering their profession. It also reminds me of an Albert Einstein quote, ‘Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.’

 

To aid the reintegration of student back into the regular school system some of the teachers were provided with facilitation counsellors to assist teachers with this process. While many teachers expected a magic wand to solve their problems the discussion process provided other ways of perceiving the situation and they now have tools to deal with these situations. So teacher job satisfaction has improved.

Student engagement of 1230 Danish 7th grade students – Hilde Ulvseth

This talk looked that the link between the characteristics of engagement and the teacher-student relationship. Which seams obvious as a classroom teacher, however, it’s good to see some statistics on this. These was taken from the Student Engagement Instrument developed by James J. Appleton, Sandra L. Christenson, Dongjin Kim, Amy L. Reschly. Further reading;

Encounters over the counter – Sanna Aaltonen

Even though Finland achieved top results in the PISA tests for OECD countries there are still underlying problems for the socialist state. There is social anxiety over the high rates of young unemployment, school drop-outs and the social exclusion of young people. Finland has the Youth Guarantee, which is part of a larger EU program. Finland’s Youth Assistance rate (of all people on benefits) is around 22% in 2014 having increased from 20% in 2009.

From the data they identified three distinct groups of unemployed Troubled, Worker/Citizens in the making and Victims of the recession. The Troubled group has the characteristics of No Job, not engaged in education and ambivalent engagement with society. The second group, Worker/Citizens in the making, has no jobs, but were still engaged in education. And the final groups, Victims of the recession, had lost their job.

The program aims at re-engaging passive young people with the Finnish society through the use of Experience experts. Where young people with knowledge of the system support others in similar situations.

A number of common problems were brought up;

The deficiency model of an external society must fix the young person, which is unlike to go down well with a disengaged individual. the forcing of the identify of being a broken young person shapes how the individual sees themselves

Another graphic showed the scarcity of time to help young people (ie They need help now, but have to wait.), which lead to the idea of affordance (borrowed from environmental psychology, see The Theory of Affordances Gibson, 1977. or An Outline of a Theory of Affordances).

What do I walk away with?

It was interesting exploring the overlap between education (ie schools) and society from the young person’s point of view as they move into the wider world. There are some questions, puzzles, and a few answers I have….

Are there measurements for wellbeing? A lot of self-help books give definitions, and neuro-science has provided some answers, but short of scanner every child, how can you know? What should you be looking for? [More research required]

Homework (Assistance) Cafes! Looks like an after school program, and given the increase in contact hours for the students within Denmark education system this appears likely. Adding a few Chai-Lattes may make the kids not notice.

Examining the link between student-teacher relationships and the student’s engagement with school. I found there is not enough detail from the attitudes to school survey used in Victoria. I would like to know how individual student-teacher relationships effect that student’s engagement for the teacher’s subject, how do other factors like gender and background effect the results. I found there was not enough detail to provide useful answers. [Again more research required]

The talk of helping young people is great, especially the idea of youth experience experts, but it would have to be handled with care to avoid a rebellious backlash.

And finally I was reminded of a quote by Voltaire, “Work banishes those three great evils, boredom, vice, and poverty.”

  • J. Le Rossignol

    The Quote, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability
    to climb a
    tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”, which
    is believed to be from Albert Einstein. Is according to Quote
    Investigator (See http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/04/06/fish-climb/)
    is from an 1898 article in the “Journal of Education” by “Aesop, Jr.”. The
    author was later identified as Amos E. Dolbear of Tufts, a prominent
    physicist and inventor.
    It does point out the entire problem with quoting things from the Internet, or the world in general.