Learning in Upper Secondary (#91/100)

Thoughts of November

by Ulla Virtanen, TAKK

I was inspired by EU. The membership of the International Team of AMKE has given me a chance to follow European education policy closer than before. The document of Council of the European Union on The future of skills and the changing role of VET in education and training systems – Discussion paper (by the Estonian Presidency) inspired me to elaborate the existing education system of Finland in the secondary.

In the document, the authors write that —the Presidency would like to encourage participants to think about the nature of the change needed (if any) in how education and training systems are organised into sectors (general education, VET, higher education, adult learning) and about the future role of VET in skills provision.

I started thinking, why do we actually have a separate vocational and general upper secondary school in Finland?  Think about it, at 16, when your life is a sweet and sour mess, you should choose whether you take the vocational OR the general path. At sixteen, you are just learning to work together for longer-term goals with the others in the group, then suddenly, you are forced to know, whether you want theory or practice – exaggerating a bit. The same bunch of young ones that play together, hang around together, look for their life paths together, are taken apart and put to either the High Way or the Vocational Way.

Life does not go like that.

This reminds me of Lev Vygotski’s Zone of proximal development (ZPD). The discussion on personal ability, what the person can do and what he or she could do with a little help from the others, is relevant here. Not giving too hard tasks, not letting the learner go away too easy, is essential. My point of this theory to my blog topic is that the young ones with their abilities are not that far from each other than we think. The situation does not change suddenly at the age of sixteen. The mean number (keskiarvo) of the certificate may turn the learners, the students to paths they do not fit in. Nobody is JUST a theoretician, nobody is JUST a practitioner.

What IF, the Upper secondary in Finland would be a place for all to do both at the same time, the vocational, the practical AND the general, the lifelong learnings skills? What IF the students could really be building their individual study paths for each and everyone, benefitting from the same age group, though larger, where one feels secure in that teenage turmoil? What IF the Upper secondary would be a real education platter, tray or even smorgåsbord, making it easy for the student to combine the theory, the general sciences and the practice in that field throughout the secondary level studies?

The boundary nowadays, VET (AMIS) or General Upper (LUKIO) is a man-made limitation, making our youth divided into two. What IF we would take out the boundary? Upper secondary could be a continuum of classes and subjects that one day gives the student the worklife approach to the same subject and the next day, takes the student back to studying the subject in class. One day the student could be doing research in a group and the following day, experimenting.

I know the thought needs elaborating and I welcome You to join the dicsussion. #alternativeuppersecondary

PS. As one of our loveliest poets Tommy T wrote:

Kaikkea saa tehdä.
Kaikkea pitää tehdä.
Kaikkia ovia täytyy tempoa, kaikkia kuita kurkotella.
On vain yksi ehto, elinehto:
Värisevää sielua ei saa tallata.

-Tommy Tabermann

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