In May 2017, the Ministry of Education of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sent a group of teachers to Finland to learn about the Finnish school system and teaching methods. 60 Saudi teachers began their six-month training in Finland University’s member universities in Turku, Tampere and Joensuu.

Now the Saudi teachers are finishing their three-month School Immersion Programme which is carried out in the universities’ teacher training schools. In Turku, the group is following the life of Normaalikoulu in Varissuo.

- Normaalikoulu is a multicultural school with students from 50 different nationalities. We are used to having visitors around the world, and Saudi teachers have quickly adapted to our daily work, says Mr. Vesa Valkila, the Vice-principal of Normaalikoulu in Turku.

- It has been great to see the empowerment and excitement among the Saudi teachers. The society in Saudi Arabia is changing and the teachers can be the engines in the modernisation development. This programme offers them the tools to take that role, adds Mr. Valkila.

The programme, which includes both theory and practice, gets praise from the Saudi teachers.

- This training support our professional development. We exchange ideas with Finnish experts in educational science and adopt the best practices to be used in Saudi Arabia. This has been an exciting and rewarding experience, the Saudi women teachers nod.

In Saudi Arabia, the teacher is provided with detailed curriculum to be followed. In Finland, the curriculum is flexible. In Turku, the principals of Saudi schools have followed the work of Finnish principals in order to learn new ways of organising the work at the school level.

- Working with Mr. Valkila has been a good experience. The trust given to teachers and students is in a completely different level here than in Saudi Arabia. Also, the concept of special education teachers who help the students with special needs, is something we can learn from, notes supervisor Talal Mohammed Hobani.

- In Saudi Arabia, the best children are often the ones who get the most attention and support from the teacher. In Finland, it is the opposite and it seems to be working well. The results are better when all students do well, notes Mr. Hobani.  

- Finnish school system is focusing on quality instead of quantity. This and the idea of equality of students is definitely something that I will take with me to Saudi Arabia. Every student has the right to the same quality education, adds English teacher Mohammed Zuhair Al-Shehri. 

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The Saudi teachers follow teaching in classrooms and their learning is supported by Finnish teachers. Mentoring the Saudi colleagues has been a positive professional experience for the Finnish teachers.

- This has been an eye-opening experience for us as teachers. It is great to notice that some of the things you have taken for granted are actually something special, and by sharing your knowledge others can benefit from it, says Mentor Tuire Suvitie.

- We see many things from different angle and there are differences between our school systems, which is a good foundation for excellent dialogue about teaching and learning. This has been a rewarding learning experience for all of us, notes Mentor Marjukka Skantsi. 

- These programmes are always win-win situations, they learn from us and we learn from them, concludes Mr. Valkila.


Pekka T. Saavalainen, CEO Finland University Oy, tel +358 40 6850717

Finland University is the international education brand, and marketing and sales company of four leading Finnish research universities: the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Tampere, the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University. All universities are in the top 2% of global university rankings.

Finland University provides worldwide the degree programmes and professional development programmes of its member universities to individuals and institutions (universities, government ministries and agencies, foundations, companies). At the moment, Finland University is delivering programmes for customers based in South East Asia, China, Latin America and the Middle East.

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