Finnish schools coped well with the transition to distance education, but students hope for more interaction

Current issues
As Finland switched to distance education in March 2020, Finnish National Agency for Education launched a study to find out how schools and institutions in primary and secondary education cope with being forced into distance education by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Girl studying on a computer

The study collates and summarises a number of Finnish studies and reports with the aim of facilitating further reforms and development of education in the future. The study period is planned to continue until the end of this year.

-  We’ll be looking at how infrastructure and equipment in Finland has served its purpose, what kind of digital learning practices have developed, what kind of skills and competences are needed in the future and what direct or indirect consequences the period of distance education may have,  explains project coordinator Jaakko Vuorio.

So far, initial observations have been made based on, among other things, reports from education and training providers (such as municipalities). In total, they represent the experiences related to digital learning and the period of distance education of some 20,000 teachers, guardians, learners and principals. The study also covers publications of different research projects, surveys conducted by trade unions and student organisations, and reports produced by various authorities; the challenge thus lies in collating the diverse survey data for use as a tool for education development.

How did distance teaching work in Finland?

Both international comparisons and national studies indicate that the transition to and delivery of distance education in Finnish schools and educational institutions were successful considering the circumstances. This is attributed to the high professional skills of teachers and society's investments in education and digitalisation. The view that distance education worked well considering the circumstances was repeated by teachers, pupils and guardians alike in numerous Finnish reports and studies.

An initial observation is that those learners who were contacted more often by the school and who received more real-time teaching were likely to be more positive in their assessments of the distance education period. A survey conducted by the Finnish Parents’ League, for example, indicates that by keeping actively in touch, teachers could support the motivation and coping of the family and the child. 

According to the Trade Union of Education in Finland's report, distance teaching was only partially provided in real time, with 61% of teachers reporting that they delivered real-time teaching. This observation is supported by municipalities’ reports, according to which the number of live lessons was relatively low, at best one half of the lessons in the normal timetable. 

The study to shed light on needs for support measures and training

Initial observations have been collected in the attached document. The study will continue in the autumn, when more research reports and studies by different authorities and associations are to be expected. These will be included in the meta-analysis to complete the situation picture, and the results will be published in a report at the end of 2020.

Once the study has been completed, more precise information will be available on the types of support measures and training teachers need. The final results will be taken into account in the Finnish National Agency for Education's training offering and support materials, among other things.