This blog text is by an exchange student who took part in the Language Campus school visit programme.
The journey started at 0850 on the 1st of September 2013 in Gaborone-Botswana (Sir Khama International Airport) through to South Africa (OR Tambo International Airport). Now an adventure started for me as an exchange student from the University of Pretoria-South Africa. It was for the first time that I had ever spent such a longer period of time on air as the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines-KL 592 continued cruising non-stop for eleven hours five minutes from Johannesburg to Amsterdam. Flight link to Helsinki lasted at least 2hrs30minutes, followed by a 45 minutes to Jyvaskyla. It was not an easy thing for a stranger to arrive in a foreign country and continent at night as it was 0025 midnight on the 2nd of September 2013. However, proper arrangements were in place as my tutor waited for me at the centre to drive me to my pre-booked KOAS accommodation in Roninmaetie.
On the 3rd of September 2013 at 1000, my tutor came to fetch me to attend an orientation programme for all exchange students (autumn) at the Agora auditorium. Though I was interested in registering for some courses both in Music education, and other departments, my keen eagerness was inclined towards those which will provide an opportunity for me to visit the Finnish schools. Fortunately, on the 8th of September I came across a course in Korppi advertised by the Language Campus, in which interested students were invited to register for Language Campus school visit programme. As a teacher by profession in Botswana for at least 16 years, I was looking forward to benchmarking from an educational perspective between Botswana and Finland. The school visit programme landed me in Lyseon lukio upper secondary school in Jyväskylä. The school had an event on the 4th of October labelled International Language Day. According to the program of the event, speakers of native languages; English, French, German, Russian, Chinese and Estonian were invited to interact with students and share ideas through conversation on general topics.
I joined forces in the category of the native English speakers in which there were three of us, one an American who is Senior lecturer at JAMK University of Applied Sciences, and the other one a British national who is the Proprietor at the English Language Management Centre in Finland. My first confusion started upon arrival as I have anticipated seeing students with full school uniform, but it was the opposite. In my country, schools from primary through to junior and senior schools are identified by their unique uniform for both boys and girls. There are many reasons behind the norm of school uniform, and the most outstanding is to curb the socio-economic differences existing amongst students.
Egalitarianism, from French égal, means ”equal” which is a trend of thought that favours equality for all people. Egalitarian doctrines maintain that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status. It is out of this premise that, my expectation for Finland as an egalitarian state should be practising the fundamentals of the doctrine at school level by maintaining attire that will not segregate pupil’s socio- economic differences. The ‘rainbow’ attire at the school didn’t fit well with my conception of the school well administered. Just as one may walk into a military garrison with the hope of seeing soldiers in uniform, but to one’s surprise finding a crew of civilians, with ‘united nations’ colourful attire, so it happened to me upon arrival at the school.
According to Dictionary.com, culture is the behaviour patterns, arts, beliefs, and other types of human works in its totality. The custodians of culture in contemporary social institutions are both the home and the school. Culture shapes human behaviour, attitudes, and values. Human behaviour results from a process of socialization, and socialization always takes place within the context of specific cultural and ethnic environments (Kallen, 1970; Novak, 1975; Pai, 1984 I found it unusual to see students with tattoos all over their bodies, as well as wearing all kinds of rings on their ears, noses, eyebrows and the lower chin. One might ask if this is part of the Finnish culture, to the extent that it is even promoted at schools.