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Ethiopians interested in the daily activities of a Finnish school

Ministry for Foreign Affairs 18.1.2019 9.00
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A group of education sector directors from Ethiopia visited the Vesala comprehensive school in Helsinki. The visitors were interested in the daily work of Finnish teachers and particularly in the school lunch, which they were also served. The visit is an integral element of Finland’s development cooperation aimed at developing the education sector in Ethiopia.


 Yilkal Kefyale, Emebet Abera and Legesse Negash were interested in hearing what methods the class teacher, Jari Ahvenus, used to help his students learn. Photo: Hanna Päivärinta/MFA

On Tuesday 15 January, a group of leading management from the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, together with directors responsible for regional state level education visited the Vesala comprehensive school. Many of the visitors had a background in teaching, which is why they were interested in not only the Finnish education system, but in smaller everyday matters, too.

The visitors had an opportunity to observe classroom work with 4th year students. The topic of the lesson was coding, and robot cars were also discussed. After the lesson ended and the children left to enjoy recess on a frosty winter day, the visitors had many questions for Jari Ahvenus, the class teacher.

They were particularly curious to know what kind of disciplinary action do Finnish teachers take.

“I prefer to use positive action, such as rewarding. Communication with the children’s parents is also important.  Disruptive behaviour is not a big problem,” Jari Ahvenus says.

The visitors also had an opportunity to visit the school greenhouse, which houses plants as well as animals kept in terrariums and cages. On arrival, the visitors were greeted by a rooster. The school’s 8th year student Maxi Suzi provided some thrilling entertainment by placing a corn snake around consenting visitors’ necks.

Yilkal Kefyale, who is responsible for education in the Amhara regional state and also a teacher, liked what he saw in Kontula. He was particularly impressed by the way Finnish school takes each student into account as an individual, and thereby supports learning.

“Free school lunch is also a great thing,” Yilkal Kefyale notes.

Finland promotes improvements in the quality of education

In Ethiopia, schools are faced with major challenges. The number of students has grown dramatically, weakening the quality of education due to lack of spaces, teachers and study materials. Only about half of those who start comprehensive school complete it.

School attendance of disabled children and those in need of special support is low. Furthermore, internal displacement caused by natural disasters and conflicts has forced thousands of children to drop out of school.

On Tuesday, the Vesala school served a vegetarian lunch. The Ethiopian education sector directors were keen to know how the school lunch was organised and who paid for it. Photo: Hanna Päivärinta/MFA

Finland has used its development cooperation funds to support improvements in the quality of education. As part of the development programme, a reform of the curriculum for basic education has been launched. Steps taken include buying 178 million textbooks, improvements in teacher education, and provision of further education to subject teachers. Furthermore, school assessment and feedback systems have been developed.

The General Education Quality Improvement Program, which is currently under way, will run until 2021. Finland is one of the development partners in this project managed by the World Bank. The project will continue to improve the quality of  basic education, pay more attention to providing education to girls, and promote the inclusion of disabled children and children in need of special support in education.

Students in need of special support are a target group in another project running until 2021. In this project, Finland provides technical support to the Ethiopian Ministry of Education for the provision of education that takes special groups into account, and for providing support for learning. The project involves expanding the resource centre network for inclusive education, and improving the activities of these centres.

Hanna Päivärinta

The author works as Communications Officer at the Department of Communications of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.


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