Finnish Early Education in Australia

Weeks 35-41

Long time no writing but it feels like yesterday when I got a new job as a Finnish mentor teacher at a company called Finnish Early Childhood Education Australia, FEC for short. I have been busy with reorganising my life and finding a balance between all different projects. Another thing that changed was the Covid-19 restrictions after the disastrous second wave in Melbourne. Catching up with “the life out there” has taken most of the weekends as we can finally live semi-normal life again.

My new employer FEC provides early learning and childcare based on the Finnish education model but localised in the Australian context. They have established several HEI Schools* around Australia: three in Victoria and one New South Wales. More centres will be opened in 2021. Additionally, they have another brand called ILO which also provides a combination of the Australian and Finnish early education frameworks. As HEI means “hello” and ILO means ‘joy” in Finnish, I’m excited for new opportunities these two great concepts bring along.

As a mentor teacher from Finland working in a multicultural company inspired by a Finnish idea, my job is to share my expertise in Finnish education and combine it with the local model. After finishing teacher training provided by HEI Schools Finland, I am now working on the pedagogical planning and implementation of the HEI curriculum together with our educators. We ensure the child-centred approach by promoting learning through play and designing holistic activities and projects.

It has been nearly seven years since I last worked in early education. However, it immediately brought back happy memories of life at kindergarten. Compared to primary school, early education is more holistic in a way that it is not as much divided into academics and free time. In early education, learning is everywhere and happens all the time. 

Coming back to early education from primary and secondary schools and adult education has opened my eyes again to the significance of positive learning experiences, socio-emotional competence, and development of self-awareness during the early years. There are, indeed, many reasons why early childhood education should be seen as an essential base of everything that follows it. Maybe one way to show people that it is more than a place where you leave your child for care could be, for example, introducing the Nordic model where it is called päiväkoti / daghem, “day home”.

I’m still continuing my work as a private teacher which is an excellent way to develop my teaching skills while I support other educators in their work. Having the opportunity to work with students of all ages, literally from babies to adults, I’m grateful for seeing life-long learning happening so concretely through these different projects.

*Read more about HEI Schools in general and HEI Schools in Australia

My new job as a Finnish mentor teacher at HEI Schools Australia is about supporting educators in providing a combination of the Australian and Finnish early education models. Getting a messy hair and sandy jeans is still part of the job though as I won’t be just sitting in the office but also participating the activities “on the floor” as they say.


Expanding expertise

Weeks 14-19

Wait, how did one month just pass like that? Melbourne is back in lockdown again and it feels like nothing much happened during the past six weeks. But in fact, something very exciting did happen! I accepted a new job which I hope to open new opportunities to expand my expertise in the field of education.

A Finnish start-up company called Huippu Education contacted me a couple of months ago to ask whether I was interested in creating online content for their further teacher training courses and managing some of their educational development projects around the world. Oh yes, please! As I have been following the amazing work of Huippu since last year, I was very excited to get on board with them and contribute my skills in teacher training and online learning promoting the quality of education globally.

So this is what I have been up to. I began by designing an online course for teachers and other education professionals about critical thinking in primary education. The course is one of the implementations of Huippu Education’s vision to promote OECD’s goals of improving students’ 21st-century skills around the world with the Finnish education expertise. Learn more about Huippu Education, its services, and or course, the fantastic education specialists!

My newest project is to create pedagogical content for Huippu Education as one of their education specialists.

The whole process of creating a course about teaching critical thinking to other teachers through an online platform was a truly comprehensive learning experience. Even though I have been studying and practising online teaching for months now, I had to review, rearrange, and re-evaluate my ideas about high-quality education. I must say that the topic “Critical thinking” really got me there. 

First surfing, and eventually diving through the theories and methodology of teaching critical thinking, I discovered new perspectives to critical thinking as one of the 21st-century skills that I haven’t even thought about before. Moreover, I came up with new ideas on how it could be practised with both students and teachers. I realised there are many points in the theories that also I, as a private language teacher, could, and perhaps even should, apply in my learning service. Even though it’s usually not what the customers primarily require from their private language lessons, I have noticed that using methods promoting higher-order thinking skills is an effective way to engage learners in deeper learning. For instance, when asking higher-order questions or providing students with language problems to solve, they demonstrate a better understanding of linguistics in general and discover their ways to learn the language. From the entrepreneur point of view, methods that support meta-learning (“learning about learning”) improve the quality of the service by providing the customers with more depth than self-studying.

Another skill that I improved during this project, was developing online content. Creating a coherent and compact online course that combines multimedia sources, higher-order thinking tasks, and interactive methods wasn’t the easiest thing to do, especially when conducting everything online. My first problem to solve was to find a way to apply the methods that I was talking about into the training itself. In other words, I didn’t think it would make any sense to teach about higher-order thinking without actually doing it through higher-order tasks. Anyway, I’m very pleased with the outcome. Thanks to Vuolearning online learning platform for enabling social activities such as discussion and peer-assessment.

Gaining more experiences in online training and teacher training has given me new ideas and inspiration for developing online pedagogy. Thanks to these new insights arisen by the project Huippu Education offered me, the power of learning by teaching has been proven once again.

The course “Critical Thinking in Primary Education” is now published and ready to be enrolled by anyone who is interesting in the 21st-century skills in education. Go and check it out on Huippu Education’s online store. I’m excited to meet teachers around the world and discuss the ways to enhance students’ critical thinking skills!

In the course “Critical Thinking in Primary Education” you will learn how to enhance learners’ critical thinking skills step by step.