Saturday 1/23/21

Helsinki is preparing not to reopen schools this spring

Closing schools due to coronavirus would be problematic for foreign-language schoolchildren. 

Finnish Government announced on Monday that schools will remain closed at least until 13 May. The reason is the alarm created by the coronavirus (koronavirus, in Finnish) epidemic, which has obliged to adopt further restrictions and to tighten those previously applied.

Minister of Education Li Andersson stressed at the government briefing that school attendance would not be interrupted, but teaching would continue with the previous arrangements, which in practice means mainly by remote learning.

However, the ministry has already prepared for the fact that schools will not be reopened this semester. “Distance education is the best option for everyone,” said Andersson.

Liisa Pohjolainen, Director of Education and Training in Helsinki, talked to Helsingin Sanomat and said that the city is prepared to continue the distance schooling throughout the spring semester.

According to Pohjolainen, one of the most important things about current days is how to evaluate 9th grades who complete their primary school.

“This is something we wait for national guidance from the National Board of Education. For others, spring assessment is also important, but for 9th grade students, it is particularly important because they apply for a postgraduate certificate and others can later receive support, for example,” said Pohjolainen.

At this stage, the general opinion in the country is that the school closing will be extended beyond 13 May.

It has not yet been pondered whether it would be advisable to bring forward the beginning of the fall semester if schools are no longer in contact classes this spring.

Schools start in August

Pohjolainen said, “So far, it has been assumed that school will start normally in August. We are more focused on the current situation. If the distance learning situation continues, our goal is to make it more uniform and so that it does not overburden the parents.”

Pohjolainen also points out that if an elementary school student lacks a computer, it can be made available at school.

Finnish language forgotten

This situation would be problematic for foreign-language schoolchildren.

According to Kaisu Toivonen, Director of Education at Espoo, there must be sufficient support for foreign-language schoolchildren, even during long distance schooling.

“In the case of children from different language and culture groups, we are concerned that the Finnish language will be forgotten. Many children from foreign backgrounds have started to speak Finnish at school, and this will probably require extra effort. Now, they live at home, their own language environment.”