International reports proclaim Finland as the first position in all educational rankings. Years ago, analyzing these documents I didn’t understand why the country was above all others. I didn’t believe much in these kinds of researches, which always caused me mistrustfulness. How is it possible to know which is the best educational system ever based just on quantitative variables? In my opinion, the success of a good education is not able to detect from these kind of variables exclusively, such ratings, number of students, types of books… There are many aspects which we are ignoring as a methodology, atmosphere or relationships. The destiny didn’t want to let me keep my doubts, thus it seems someone sent me there to find out by myself. My knowledge was based just in theory. We know that theory with any practical experience becomes obsolete. During my 5 years in the University Finland, it appeared as if every subject I studied was a reference or model of the perfect education in the world.
In 2013 the government invested 12,81% in education from the total of all public expenses. If we compare with other countries Finland overtakes Spain (9,52%), Germany (11,22%), France (9,74%) or Italy (8, 43%). The only countries which are above Finland are Denmark (15,04%), Iceland (15,42%), Sweden (15,25%) and Norway (17,45%). We can affirm that the Nordic countries invest more in Education than the rest of countries in Europe. Furthermore, it is important to know that 99% of the Institutions of basic education (from 6 to 16 years) are public. Books, materials, food, and transportation are included as well as state expenses. The theory was giving me good clues about how education works in Finland, but I needed more information, a practical one.
Some of my Spanish friends were studying Erasmus in Helsinki while I was doing my EVS in a little village two hours from the capital. I used to go there every weekend. Cristina, one of my friends, already finished her Erasmus internship, but she wanted to stay there continuing her studies. She had to make an exam to be accepted into the University. I had the chance to ask to her all my doubts. I was very lucky when I met her because she was with two more girls, one from Russia and another from France. They were in the same situation as Cristina, so I could gather more information. They had the exam in few days, but they were quite relaxed. I found myself asking them many questions in the same time: "Don't you need to pay any fee? Is it an easy exam? How will you manage the validations from Spain?" I had never seen an opportunity like this before. I found everything quite open and accessible for foreigners. They explained to me how easy was get all information and apply to make the exam. Probably we are used to seeing obstacles everywhere when we want to get something. The personal limits which we put to ourselves are not easy, but there are others we can't manage at all. We have learned life is hard, we have to be strong. There is always a barrier on the way which doesn't depend on us. This time it seems I found a system which people could access without many impediments.
However, I still had many questions. So I decided to ask a colleague during my EVS who studied at the University There are 20 Universities in Finland, all of them are public. She told me that from 2014 central government decided to stop the payment of tuition at the public Universities, so they were completely free. What about the foreigners who want to study there? Of course, they don't need to pay any fee as the local people. Further, the government provides internships to pay all the extra expenses for local people, which foreigner can't access. However, there are many bits of help from organizations which support the foreigners. It seems there is a concern about the quality of the system instead to make Education as an economical business. She explained me her experiences during her studying period. Lessons were focused in discussions and practical activities where everybody was able to participate. All theory I was studying a few years ago seems true. She opened herself talking about her childhood. She felt completely free, but the motivation was the key to reach this freedom. She remembered to spend a long time doing what she liked it at school, as enjoying the nature outside. After school, she could keep in touch with nature because she didn't have to do any homework.
What about the interaction relationships? The non-nordic countries of Europe believe that these cold countries have hard social problems to interact with others. My friend was very serious during this topic. "What is normal in this world and what is not? Who is writing the rules? We need others to improve ourselves. Why not instead to destroy each other highlighting the differences as something negative, we don't try to take the "best" of each culture. The focus is in open our mind higher of what the world imposes on us.