by Leena Heinilä
It is not everyday that You get invited to the place where You would have always wanted to visit: Gibraltar – The Rock!
We do have our own Gibraltar of the north -fortress here in Helsinki, Finland. Suomenlinna, the fortress made of granite and founded in 1748. The place was commonly called the Gibraltar of the North by the contemporaries. Unique attraction, but unique was my visit to Gibraltar – The Rock too! Thank You for the Department of Education for that invitation!
It was one week in the end of November 2018 that the Gibraltar Lower Primary School staff welcomed me, the Finnish educationalist to their schools. The collaboration together was already established from the visit that the Gibraltar Department of Education delegation made to Helsinki in the beginning of the year 2018. They visited the schools, learnt about Finnish Education System and explored the child-centered learning culture. So, my visit “cemented the cultural and educational ties” as the spoke person of the Government of Gibraltar it stated.
Every national education system has its pros and cons but learning from others, reflecting familiar educational practices in a light of another culture, enhancing understanding through comparisons, offering opportunities for culture sensitive educational co-operation and consulting surely offers new ideas and working models to improve the assessment and education development processes of our own systems.
And that is what also happened after the collaborative time together there in Gibraltar. My host, Educational Adviser Stuart Borastero wrote that the workshops, pedagogical and reflective learning café discussions and lectures on collaborative teaching and learning with the holistic and creative curricular approach and talks about student welfare and assessment had lit “a flame of educational development in our schools”.
In Gibraltar, there are 14 schools and one college of further education in Gibraltar. All teacher training takes place in UK universities and colleges, and teachers must have a registration number issued by the Department for Education (UK). However, there is a positive boost to develop something on their own and as the Minister for Education, John Cortes, said: “The Finnish educational model of collaborative teaching and learning, reduction of stress from exams, and focus on developing the child as a person is very close to the Government’s philosophy driving the current changes in our Education system”.
So, what did I do then in order to light that positive flame among my Gibraltarian colleagues? I left for Gibraltar to talk about our Finnish collaborative learning culture and how it is known about its child- centred approach which translates positively into the classrooms. Our students’ overall wellbeing is the foundation for well learning. Caring, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication reflect on our daily school tasks. Everything is based on trust and responsibility. Also, I wanted to share how the teachers’ task is to instruct and guide students to become lifelong learners. The pedagogical approach is in the student-centered interactive and inspiring learning sessions that enhance students’ caring, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication among the participation. And how here in Finland and in the Finnish schools’ students set goals, solve problems and assess their learning based on set targets. Learning is for our students an active, goal-oriented and self-motivated action.
The goals of the visit were to introduce the Finnish collaborative learning culture, its ethos and practice to Gibraltar educators. The emphasis was on collaborative teaching and learning as well as progressive self- and peer-assessment. I truly enjoyed the pedagogical and reflective discussions. It was sometimes difficult to get my turn to speak back again due the lively and enthusiastic feedback comments that were discussed among the participants. I was so glad that I suggested peer/assistant shadowing in the classrooms to the week program. What a pearl it was to be able to peek into the colleagues’ classrooms in another cultural background. Thanks so much for sharing your pedagogical thoughts, teaching and learning tips and your learning and teaching space and your classroom stories with me. What a pleasure it was to be able to spend that pedagogical week with the colleagues that were so engaged, enthusiastic and eager to get involved in educational collaborative joy of learning and sharing process together!