A Finnish Nursery School

KUHMO -- "Day care" does not do justice to the nursery schools of Finland, which provide an elaborate form of preschool education that de-emphasizes education per se in favor of socialization and just plain fun.


Teachers at the nursery school are very engaged with the children, paying personal attention to each child often. (Lucian Perkins - The Washington Post)
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We saw the system at work in Kuhmo, a small town of 10,000 (location of the Arts Center described in an early entry). We visited the town's preschool on the last day of its academic year. Parents can keep their children in the center through the summer, but only if they pay to do so; in the school year there is no fee, as in all of Finland's schools. Payment is small, and on a sliding scale that depends on the family's income. The fee for the best-off family for the summer is $250. (Amazingly, traffic fines in Finland are exacted in the same way, the amount depending on the malefactor's taxable income.)

The center serves 40 children with a staff of four teachers, two teachers' aides, a cook and three more aides assigned full time to individual kids who have special needs. The place looks and feels as luxurious as this list of staff sounds. It is bright, as neat as a pin (as has been every Finnish home or institution we have visited, without exception) and elaborately equipped. There are miniature beds for naps that pull down out of clever Murphy-like closets, elaborate costumes for dress-up, sports equipment galore, games and lots of books everywhere. Reading aloud is a favored activity, but no effort is made to teach the kids, 4 to 6 years old, how to read, although some of them always do pick it up, according to Mirsa Pussinen, 47, the school's director for two decades.

During our visit we saw kids learning to cope with the calendar, and practicing a sort of public speaking by declaiming on their summer plans. And we saw adults reading to children one-on-one and in small groups. Getting along in a group is a key part of preschool, Pussinen said. "Socialization is a key part of our mission, and very important."


All teachers in Finnish day-care schools have a master's degree in education. (Lucian Perkins - The Washington Post)
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We arrived at lunch time and watched with fascination how the wholesome meal of carrots, mashed potatoes and meatloaf was served. One teacher dished the food out (it had been prepared in a central school kitchen in Kuhmo and delivered that morning), one plate at a time. Kids and staff were all seated quietly at small tables. First she served the other staff, then called the kids up by name, one at a time. It was a typical Finnish gathering - they seem to be the same no matter the age of the crowd: Everyone waited calmly, no one fidgeted, even the hungry 6-year-old boys. They all then ate quietly and deliberately. The whole scene seemed amazingly well controlled.

I was tempted just then to write "excessively" instead of amazingly, but that would be a value judgment I'm not comfortable making. Finnish society is so homogenous compared to America's and Finns seem so calm and orderly in all public places that this was probably just a manifestation of cultural difference, not of excessive control. And right after lunch the kids were allowed to run and play and shout with abandon. Those who wanted to nap (or whose parents requested it) took a nap; those who didn't played, sometimes very physically. A group of boys showed off for the visitors doing flips onto a foam-rubber mattress.

By reputation Finnish day-care inculcates gender equity from the beginning, avoiding stereotyping by games or roles. I asked Pussinen about this, and at first she was baffled about how to answer. Finally she said gender equity "is quite natural in our society." She then said she hadn't initially understood what I was asking about.


Getting along in a group is a key part of preschool in Finland. (Lucian Perkins - The Washington Post)
View Enlarged Photo

The orderliness of Finnish society - and the power of Finland's trade unions, which represent about 80 percent of the workforce - was evident again when we asked about the workday. The teachers have a precisely fixed shift: seven hours and 39 minutes. The kids can stay from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. if the parents like, longer than any one teacher's shift. The teachers' base pay is $3,000 a month; they all have master's degrees in education.

By Robert G. Kaiser |  May 30, 2005; 9:50 AM ET  | Category:  Education
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Comments

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Even though I am a teacher in a very good school district near Chicago, I know the Finns have an edge on preschool education in the manner in which they provide daycare. I have personally visited a daycare in Finland, as well as primary schools and middle schools (junior highs, as we would call them). It is quite impressive to note all of the points made in the article are quite true. It is so interesting to note the polite table manners of the children, no matter the age. Children share in the jobs of serving and cleanup at both daycare/preschool and in the public schools. Even though I teach in a highly successful school system, there is still much to learn from the Finnish education system, at all levels. Bravo for sharing this part of Suomi with all readers!

Posted by: Karen "Lulu" Foley | May 31, 2005 11:44 AM


A note about the teachers: it is a shame that those well-educated (usually) women get such a lousy paycheck. They study somewhat 6 years making their own research and all and then they get paid 3 times less than those (usually) men who take care of not children but paper machines.

It's not stupid who asks but them who pay, right?

Posted by: Aino | May 31, 2005 01:07 PM

Well, paper manufacturers are big companies and make loads of money. But I agree in that teachers should get paid better.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 01:13 PM

Do preschool teachers really make $3000 per month? That's quite a lot considering that teachers in university with a master's degree or PhD don't have a base pay even close to that.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 01:28 PM

Why not, it was $3000, not 3000 €.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 01:31 PM

I don't think comparison between the paper machine operators and preschool teachers is valid. They just are different jobs, period. However men tend to make more money in Finland than women, it's a fact.

I also agree that these teachers should be making more money and that even though every job is important, this one is especially important and it should show in the salary rather than just as respect from other people. They are doing a valuable job and I can sleep my nights at peace sending my future kids to the system.

Posted by: student | May 31, 2005 02:00 PM

What I find most interesting, and even disturbing, is how quickly an article about how children are treated at a school devolved into a conversation about job titles and pay for the adults. Why does everything have to be about "what do you do" and "how much do you make?"

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 02:18 PM

How typically American to fixate on the amount of money they are making.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 02:19 PM

You didn't mention "family daycare" (where small groups of children are cared for in a home environment by a state sponsored caregiver). That is another childcare option parents have. Parents can also send kids to private daycare centers.

I am an American and we send our daughter to a "regular" daycare center (not private) and we are extremely happy with the care that is provided. They provide a safe, clean and friendly environment for kids. They always have terrific activities for the children, regular trips and the kids get lots of fresh air and sunshine. They have a good balance between structured activities and unstructured play. The teachers are fantastic, caring and well educated. They are flexible about special dietary needs or other needs as well. When we have had concerns they always addressed them promptly. When deciding about care, they let us stay and observe the class while our child played. We had checked out many daycare options for our child before deciding where to place our child and were pleased to find the daycare is so good. Even though it is not without problems, it is an extremely well run system that provides excellent care for children.

One benefit of this type of care is that parents don't have to worry so much about their children. Perhaps society is more productive because parents can have peace of mind when they go to work?

Posted by: Ro | May 31, 2005 02:22 PM

"How typically American to fixate on the amount of money they are making."

I don´t think those were comments from Americans. I think they were Finnish women. The topic women salaries/men´s salaries is an evergreen in Finland. And for a reason.

I trust the public day care more than private. Of course also the private day care is strictly monitored by authorities, but the stuff is not always equally competent.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 02:35 PM

just wanted to note out a few errors...
childcare is not free in finland, but preschool and school are.

parents can choose between three childcare options: municipal daycare centers, "family daycare" (as already mentioned) and taking care of the children at home. daycare fees are adjusted to the parents' income and homecare is supported by a special homecare aid.

preschool teachers do not have a master's degree, they have a bachelor's degree. school teachers have a master's.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 02:36 PM

I don't think the salary for preschool teachers is nowhere near $3000 - I have a master's degree and my base salary in a vocational school is about €1400 which is only slightly more in dollars. preschool teachers get less in general, I think. But the overall amount depends on all kinds of things.

Posted by: Outi | May 31, 2005 02:43 PM

To us in the 3rd world it is a dream to have such a wonderful atmosphere provided to the future generation.Instaed what we offer them malnutrition,poverty,slavery,
bullets any many other forms of social discriminations.So two kids(one of 1st & other of 3rd) are distinctively different because of the rights are violated in one case and preserved in tghe other.

A request thru this to conscious populace of the 1st is tp pressurize the politicians to behave civily while using aid for the poor not steal it to build mansion(s) in the 1st world.

My sincere respect to the teacher preparing the future citizens with such care.
Amities

Posted by: Faruque Alamgir | May 31, 2005 02:45 PM

Yes, I think a good and versatile day-care system is a blessing, both for parents and children. In some occasions, parents are blamed not staying at home to raise their child until he/she is old enough to go to school or at extreme cases to move out of the house and start an independent life. Even though leaving the home may be tough at first, at the end children enjoy being involved with day-care activities and other kids. Plus learning social skills and good habits may be easier there due to the input of skilled teachers than staying at home with a parent. A funny example of this coming from popular tv-series Nanny / Nanny 911, where families with monster kids always have a background of stay-at-home mom (in rare occasions dad) stubbornly trying to do the "right" thing and taking care of the kids all by her own. So, no need to feel guilty about having a career and a dignified adult life outside the home, women - day-care is good for your children as well.

Posted by: girl | May 31, 2005 02:49 PM

"preschool teachers do not have a master's degree, they have a bachelor's degree. school teachers have a master's"

It might not be a mandatory requirement for all positions in day care centers, but many of them have studied more than that, usually master.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 02:57 PM

The combination of high quality, affordability, and wide availability of Finnish pre-school is missing in the U.S. I do not understand this given the U.S. focus on education, and our excellence at the college level.

My two kids, 3 and 1 yrs, attend a great preschool/daycare (with schooling through 8th grade). But I put my first child on the wait list when I was 8 weeks pregnant -he got in 3 yrs later at age 2 1/2. We also pay a lot - $300/week per child, although in my large metropolitan area this is not unusual.

Posted by: M. Simkin | May 31, 2005 03:06 PM

Not only the combination of high quality care and affordability is missing in the US, but it is sometimes very difficult to find high quality care even if you are willing to pay for it. I was happy for Finnish kids and envied Finnish parents for the peace of mind they must have from having such great care provided for their children. Even private, expensive daycares in US, especially in big metropolitan areas where waiting lists occupy giant binders, fail to provide the loving, nurturing environment described in the article on Finnish preschools. Teachers are underpaid and have no incentive to really engage with the kids. It is just a job that pays the bills, but they'd rather be doing something else. Love and affection for kids is not something actively sought by preschool directors. Love and affection is missing from most preshools in the US.

Posted by: a mother | May 31, 2005 03:22 PM

Not only the combination of high quality care and affordability is missing in the US, but it is sometimes very difficult to find high quality care even if you are willing to pay for it. I was happy for Finnish kids and envied Finnish parents for the peace of mind they must have from having such great care provided for their children. Even private, expensive daycares in US, especially in big metropolitan areas where waiting lists occupy giant binders, fail to provide the loving, nurturing environment described in the article on Finnish preschools. Teachers are underpaid and have no incentive to really engage with the kids. It is just a job that pays the bills, but they'd rather be doing something else. Love and affection for kids is not something actively sought by preschool directors. Love and affection is missing from most preshools in the US.

Posted by: a mother | May 31, 2005 03:23 PM

"Finnish society is so homogenous compared to America's and Finns seem so calm and orderly in all public places that this was probably just a manifestation of cultural difference"

I'd be interested to hear more of Kaiser's thoughts on Finland's 'homogeny' - It sounds like he's praising it and sees it as a key to Finland's educational success, which really surprises me.

Kaiser hails from DC where there are *AWFUL* public schools, yet it's extremley homogenous...every one is poor and black. So does homogeny really have anything to do with it?

- Phil
http://www.finlandforthought.net

Posted by: Phil | May 31, 2005 04:39 PM

I believe the county daycare center workers beginning salary is around €1500 ($1900). The minimum salaries are dictated by a collective bargaining agreement between the labor unions and the employers' representatives for practically all employees. Many younger daycare center workers are actually on a government program in which they work a certain period and then are required to stay unemployed for a certain period before repeating the cycle. This travel diary is painting a very rosy picture of Finland as a calm and very well run socialist heaven. I think they should write an article about a small entrepreneur operated business in Finland. The only thing they get from the government is a tax bill before they even start operating.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 04:40 PM

"A note about the teachers: it is a shame that those well-educated (usually) women get such a lousy paycheck."

Lousy? $3,000 (about 2,500e?) is quite good, *especially* in Kuhmo. A couple with that income in a region like Kuhmo makes you "upper-middle class" in Finland standards.

Posted by: Phil | May 31, 2005 04:42 PM

"This travel diary is painting a very rosy picture of Finland as a calm and very well run socialist heaven."

Finland IS quite calm and very well run compared with the US in MANY respects. A lot can be learned from the Finnish system. It's not perfect but in my opinion it works better than the US system of daycare for example, or health care and in many other respects as well.

Somehow I think that small entrepreneurs have it tough in most countries not just Finland. Starting your own business is a risk.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 04:49 PM

"How typically American to fixate on the amount of money they are making."

I would have thought that same too if I had only been in Finland for a short time, but almost after thee years here, I think just the opposite. It is the Finns who are so concerned about salaries...

In the U.S., your salary is as personal as your collection of nudy magazines. In Finland, a quick trip down to the tax office and you can find anyone's income. There's constant strikes in Finland over salaries. Unions and employers are always battling it out over a fair wage. Weekly news reports in Finland about how certain groups make more than other groups. I could go on...

So if anyone is fixated on salaries, it's Finland. However, is that really a bad thing? They're so concerned about raising wages and equal pay (much more than in the states), so they become fixated on it. But still, Finns have some of the lowest wages in the old EU and even lower purchasing power, so sometimes all their work for higher wages and equal pay seems like a waste.

- Phil
http://www.finlandforthought.net

Posted by: Phil | May 31, 2005 04:52 PM

Homogeneity has been mentioned many times indeed, with a slight notion of envy, as the secret behind the success of Finland. How is that possible? Usually one hears claiming that diversity is needed to reach the best results in working teams, ecosystems etc. If this was the case, US - the good old melting pot, should by far come up with the best solutions for every existing problem. However, all we get to see is brainless bomb dropping and total neglect of the challenging homeland problems. Maybe high level of homogeneity indeed is the prerequisite for success?

I've got a MSc and looking forward to get salaries of and above $3000 some lucky day in future. The academic labour union recommendation of an average starting wage for a MSc I guess is around 2000 euros/month (~ $2700) but not too many with a master's see that figure in their paycheck. A result of the high supply of the highly educated meeting the not so plenty working positions.

Posted by: girl | May 31, 2005 05:11 PM

"I'd be interested to hear more of Kaiser's thoughts on Finland's 'homogeny' - It sounds like he's praising it and sees it as a key to Finland's educational success, which really surprises me."

In my opinion it can be a good thing if the culture is suitable for it. I don't think the Finnish system would work as good in a very multicultural country with lots of cultural differencies between the groups.

"Finns have some of the lowest wages in the old EU"

And best public services etc. Personally I couldn't care less about wages (or taxes), the most important thing is that the work one does is meaningful and interesting to the person.

--

"Somehow I think that small entrepreneurs have it tough in most countries not just Finland. Starting your own business is a risk."

No it's not. You won't end up on the streets even in the worst possible scenario and bankrupty.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 05:14 PM

I think they should write an article about a small entrepreneur operated business in Finland. The only thing they get from the government is a tax bill before they even start operating.

"Somehow I think that small entrepreneurs have it tough in most countries not just Finland. Starting your own business is a risk."

...No it's not. You won't end up on the streets even in the worst possible scenario and bankrupty


-It is a risk because you have to save your own money for pension for example. It's a risk both ways - of getting something better or worse depending on the outcome. The original comment was about the high taxes for entrepreneurs. My thoughts were that it's not easy for entrepreneurs in any country - it's not exclusive to Finnish entrepreneurs who pay high taxes.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 05:30 PM

"I think they should write an article about a small entrepreneur operated business in Finland."

I think they tried, but they just couldn't find anyone dumb enough to start a business in Finland. ;-)

Posted by: Phil | May 31, 2005 05:41 PM

"I don't think the Finnish system would work as good in a very multicultural country with lots of cultural differencies between the groups."

Could this be a reason why the U.S. would never take on the welfare state model? Because it's very multicultural so it just wouldn't "work" ?

Posted by: Phil | May 31, 2005 05:43 PM

Note that there is no pressure to start academics til they start kindergarten at age 7. Yet by the time they're at the high school level, Finnish kids are at the top academically. What does that say about the increasing popularity among some parents in the US to cram academics down their pre-schooler's throat?

Posted by: Paul | May 31, 2005 06:56 PM

It is a very interesting claim, that affordable childcare and/or healthcare just wouln't work in a multicultural society, and one I hear in the U.S. a lot. It doesn't appear that there is any logical basis for this, it's just an excuse given by those wealthy enough to afford services and therefore little incentive to do anything about changing the system.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 06:59 PM

who need multicultural society?

HUH. Look Sweden and think twice.

Posted by: epi | May 31, 2005 07:04 PM

""I think they should write an article about a small entrepreneur operated business in Finland."

I think they tried, but they just couldn't find anyone dumb enough to start a business in Finland. ;-)"

Starting a business here or elsewhere is always a risk as someone already pointed out. Usually you start a business either if can't find a job or you have a good business idea (or both). There are also businessmen around who start new businesses just "for fun". Guess that's the same everywhere, the big boys also need their toys.

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 07:16 PM

I guess multiculturality doesn't work nor benefit society like it could if everybody is strictly sticking to their own thing, not willing to give up something and get something in return. US, despite its vast human diversity, so far is truly multicultural only on the grass-root level; important national decisions are still mostly being made by rich white male and people having adopted their self-centered thinking patterns. On the grass-roots, cultures don't seem to interact much, especially little so with the dominating white-european culture. This actually reflects the same racism related problems that have been discussed earlier in case of Finland. It's very natural for people to socialize with those of their own kind and avoid those that are in some way different. This is where governments should come to play and with serious efforts educate, raise awareness and bring people closer to each other.

Finns are able to adapt themselves to any place in the world because our identity is not dependent on seriously restrictive cultural or religious rules. Most Finns dislike any sort of fundamentalism because of the exclusive and judgmental nature of extreme movemevents. It just doesn't feel right. Neutrality may sound boring but it enables flexibility and free thinking. Thus, despite our claimed introvertedness we are open to new ideas and use good one of them to improve our society. This is something we constantly do, evaluate options to do things. I'm convinced that even discussion on this website does affect our thinking and makes some of us once again a little wiser, may be some day contributing to the improvement of our society. So, keep complaining and comparing, folks.

Posted by: girl | May 31, 2005 08:34 PM

'affordable childcare and/or healthcare just wouln't work in a multicultural society', hehehhe. Can´t remember when I laughed like this :D Grow up, heh heh. Cheeese...

People please use arguments to back these kinds of statements, don't jsut present them as common sense observations ^^

Posted by: T the Finn | May 31, 2005 08:44 PM

"affordable childcare and/or healthcare just wouln't work in a multicultural society', hehehhe. Can´t remember when I laughed like this :D Grow up, heh heh. Cheeese...
People please use arguments to back these kinds of statements, don't jsut present them as common sense observations"

Huh?

Your Finnish humor is eluding me. I was pointing out that people use those kinds of arguments without having any kind of logical basis for them.

Are you saying that I was wrong, and they are in fact logical arguments, or did you not read all of my post, or did you fail to understand it?

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 10:11 PM

Unfortunately socialism and government run welfare programs only work in a country called Utopia. In Finland it has somehow worked, because people are obedient and do "the right thing" without questioning whether it makes sense or not. My prediction is that with the influx of ideas and people from other countries, the socialist dream collapses within a decade.

Posted by: WhatssogreataboutFinland | May 31, 2005 11:57 PM

Homogeneity, huh? Multiculturality, huh?? I'm just no good with big words like these. Is this about all Finns being of the same origin, blonde and blue-eyed? But Finland is a nation of several ethnic groups, tribes if you will. Häme, Savo, Karjala, Finnish-Swedish, Åland-guys, Lappi-people, not to forget the Sami etc. All the groups have their own characteristics and even if in today's world they are fading, you can still easily recognize a Karelian individual from the Eastern parts just from his/her demeanor.

So, you add a group of Somalis with their own cultural background or Russiana or something else, how would that suddenly disrupt the "system"? I mean eventually everyone will intergrate into it.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 02:07 AM

Finland and the other Nordic welfare states are as close to the original thought of Karl Marx's communism as it will ever get. The soviet dictatorship or the chinese "communism" have been just misinterpretations of the model.

Posted by: No comments | June 1, 2005 02:46 AM


Yes I am a Finnish woman who brought up the paychecks: Sorry if that misled you all and this discussion.

Anyway, as I think the daycare system is great and I am also (as some woman wrote earlier) happily bringing my kids to be part of the system, I don't see anything else to be worried about than those (usually) women who are the primus motors of it all. Can they handle it and for how long?

I do hope they get their trade unions to be more active -- at this very moment the paper workers are demanding some more money and who know's they'll get some.

However, my point is that I respect those ladies taking care of our kids and future adults.

Posted by: Aino | June 1, 2005 05:43 AM

I think it would be nice if mr Kaiser would drop in some school or kindergarten when he is in Turku. There are some where the majority of kids are immigrants. It would be interesting to know how things are in places where the kids come from 30+ different countries.

On some other thread somebody said that refugees are packed in one area. No, they are not. They are sprinkled all over the country, but usually they prefer familiar, and later move where they have relatives. That is how all the chinatowns and little Indias of this world have formed.

Posted by: A random Finn | June 1, 2005 05:46 AM

""Somehow I think that small entrepreneurs have it tough in most countries not just Finland. Starting your own business is a risk."

No it's not. You won't end up on the streets even in the worst possible scenario and bankrupty."

Yes, you do. If things go bad, it takes time to end up your business and as long as you have one, you get no money from social offices at all.
Well, people who start businesses usually have enough money to prevent that (and if things go bad, they sell company property and have money because of that, which they are not allowed to do, but nobody is checking)

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 05:47 AM

"government run welfare programs only work in a country called Utopia. In Finland it has somehow worked, because people are obedient and do "the right thing"

Finns are a homogenous nation, and have evolved in the arctic climate and learned to honesty and cooperation long time ago. Cooperation raises everyone's quality of life.

"My prediction is that with the influx of ideas and people from other countries, the socialist dream collapses within a decade."

I don't need to ask from what country you come from. That kind of cut throat and eye for an eye mentality exists more or less in one country. I agree that the Nordic welfare model would never work in a money obsessed and "Me First!" oriented country.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 06:22 AM

"I agree that the Nordic welfare model would never work in a money obsessed and "Me First!" oriented country."

Can you seriously claim that Finland is not this kind of country already? Well, even if it wasn't like that now, it will be it tomorrow, at the latest. A sad trend...

Posted by: a Finn | June 1, 2005 07:36 AM

"Can you seriously claim that Finland is not this kind of country already? Well, even if it wasn't like that now,"

I'm sure you can find all kinds of people everywhere in the world, but when you compare the situation in Nordic countries to other countries, there is a big big difference.

"it will be it tomorrow, at the latest. A sad trend..."

Admittedly there's a slight trend to that direction, but I wouldn't be that pessimistic. At least my experience is that it's a certain (yuppy) generation who is leaned that way, but many of the younger people (the future generation) are starting to see what that does and are quite critical towards that trend. Maybe those who are totally blinded by greed and money move to some low-tax paradise and live there happily (or most likely learn the hard way the downsides). I'm not pessimistic about the future.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 08:09 AM

"The strength of a small country lies in its unity." -- Gustav Mannerheim

Diversity on the other hand is what Bosnia has.

I think what holds together a Finnish socialist state is the Protestant work ethique. Get too many people without that background in there and the place will collapse and be more like Bosnia or Russia or an American ghettoe.

Posted by: Protestant Work Ethique | June 1, 2005 09:25 AM

What wonderful informational coverage on Finnland.

Posted by: Gunta Krasts Voutyras | June 1, 2005 09:29 AM

As an American I don't find Finland particularly money oriented or "Me First" especially compared with the US.

Yes there are the obligatory salary comparisons & similar things but money things don't seem to be the most important thing in Finnish life. For example, there was a happiness survey done for Finns and money was number 19 on the list. Somehow I have the feeling if you asked Americans money would be mentioned much earlier than that. Things like having a home, sunny days, being able to be yourself, honest relationships were high on the list for Finns.

I don't think of Finland as particularly "Me First" society because it makes sure that it's citizens are cared for with healthcare, daycare, care for the elderly etc. Somehow Finns seem to have a good balance between money and other things that contribute to a good life.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 10:33 AM

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 11:28 AM

Bravo, Protestant Work Ethique:

Frankly this is what Finland is in a nutshell: A relatively happy, rich and pretty secular Protestant-Socialist state. Or should we add: White-Protestant-Socialist. With great homogenity, most Finns could be called WPSs.

Generally, thanks for the good work, Robert and Lucian: Although your touch is a little "American" and sugary, it certainly persuades debate and visits to Finland!

AT

Posted by: PWE | June 1, 2005 12:26 PM

What is best for young children?

Finnish preschools wisely avoid academic curriculum for preschool age children. But what would be even better is if Finnish parents avoided putting their children in preschool/daycare programs in the first place.

American parents shouldn't be so eager to find a model to follow for institutionalizing tiny kids -- particularly since current scientific research shows that children in extended daycare and preschool programs eventually have poorer work habits, inferior peer relationships, substandard emotional health, lower grades and standardized test scores, and are more difficult to discipline.

Dr. Mary Eberstadt in "Home Alone America" warns that institutionalizing young children in preschool and daycare can damage them intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, physically, and socially. Yet no one seems to care about what's best for the children.

We continue to ask the wrong questions such as "How much does it cost?" It's not about the cost for daycare. It's the cost in the healthy development of human beings that should be of paramount concern. The damage we do to our young children by putting them in government preschools extends to the society at large. The cost will be astronomical.

For more information visit http://www.UniversalPreschool.com

Diane Flynn Keith

Posted by: Diane Flynn Keith | June 1, 2005 02:11 PM

"Dr. Mary Eberstadt in "Home Alone America" warns that institutionalizing young children in preschool and daycare can damage them intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, physically, and socially. Yet no one seems to care about what's best for the children."

Actually (good) day care environment is a good way for the kids to develope social skills. Now if you're talking the american style day care, I can believe too that it can be harmful.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 02:18 PM

"particularly since current scientific research shows that children in extended daycare and preschool programs eventually have poorer work habits, inferior peer relationships, substandard emotional health, lower grades and standardized test scores, and are more difficult to discipline."

What do you except if the day care is done as it's done it the US. You shouldn't compare two totally different kind of systems. For example, US day care "professionals" don't have master's degree in special pedagogy, psychology or such.

"The damage we do to our young children by putting them in government preschools extends to the society at large. The cost will be astronomical."

That's bunch of crap. There is tons of evicende that good day care environment has a very positive effect on children. I wonder what "Dr. Eberstadt's" real scientific merits are and what the scientific community thinks about her theories.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 02:24 PM

That's bunch of crap. There is tons of evicende that good day care environment has a very positive effect on children. I wonder what "Dr. Eberstadt's" real scientific merits are and what the scientific community thinks about her theories.


There is a lot of evidence that daycare in any shape or form is *not* good for children. One book that more people should read is The Daycare Deception.

Posted by: emm | June 1, 2005 03:25 PM

If day-care would damage kids intellectually, emotionally, psychologically, physically, and socially just about every Finn under 35 would be damaged goods. But when I look at my young adults and their friends I see people who are way more intellectual, social and emotionally mature than their parents ever were.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 03:32 PM

"There is a lot of evidence that daycare in any shape or form is *not* good for children."

American day care, frustrated uneducated workers, dirty day care centers, no food, only unhealthy snacks, candy and pizza, no meaningful activities, no healthy environment (physically and psychologically).

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 03:38 PM

>

Actually, the most damage is done by separating young children from their parents before they're able to understand why mom "needs" to work - not from the quality of the child care home or center. You can have the most meaningful, healthy, clean environment around but it still means that neither mom nor dad is there.

Socialize your young children by being with them and taking them places and visiting friends and spending time with family. Give them meaningful activities and healthy food and a physically and psychologically safe environment in their home and community. You don't need a daycare or preschool to accomplish those things.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 04:11 PM

"Socialize your young children by being with them and taking them places and visiting friends and spending time with family."

Finns have one of the shortest work days and longest holidays in the world. There's plenty of time to be with family, you're again comparing very different cultures. I personally enjoyed my time in a state-of-the-art day care center near my home, which was modern and luxurious. I wanted to go there.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 04:20 PM

There are many books and scientists in the world, not all of them quite being what they want you to believe they are. I wouldn't take any one book or "Dr" as the ultimate guide for my life. Then again I've been educated to think critically and combine information from many sources, which I guess isn't necessarily the case in US. I don't have personal experiences on US daycare system so I can't say if it could in any way be damaging to kids. I doubt it, though the food really is awful if it's the same fast crap that people keep eating at schools and universities.

Children have traditionally been raised by communities instead of just one/two parents and in modern society, organized daycare just replaces the old informal daycare systems.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 04:30 PM

Well, studies HAVE shown that children do better when they are homeschooled, that being said, why wouldn't that apply to small children? I believe that children are better socialized by their parents than other children. When you have one unrelated adult to 10-20 children in a daycare, that adult does not hold much credibility or influence over the kids. Young children respect those who really love them on a daily basis, not some stranger who is watching 10+ other kids, who doesn't have any emotional connection or investment in the child. No matter how much a daycare worker or teacher loves children, they cannot hold a candle to how much a parent loves and cares for their children. Young children need their parents at these very young, impressionable ages and it's sad that their needs are not being met in our adult-self-absorbed society. Kids get socialization from their parents. I see that as being much better than being socialized by their peers, who may or may not have behavior, emotional, or psychological issues.

The government has taken away parent's ability to raise their children. It's amazing how eager parents are to let someone else do the work and raise their children and then they have the nerve to complain about their behavior or how they "turned" out. People please focus on what's truly best for our children NOT what is convenient for you!

-Karri Lewis

Posted by: Karri | June 1, 2005 04:31 PM

There are many books and scientists in the world, not all of them quite being what they want you to believe they are. I wouldn't take any one book or "Dr" as the ultimate guide for my life. Then again I've been educated to think critically and combine information from many sources, which I guess isn't necessarily the case in US. I don't have personal experiences on US daycare system so I can't say if it could in any way be damaging to kids. I doubt it, though the food really is awful if it's the same fast crap that people keep eating at schools and universities.

Children have traditionally been raised by communities instead of just one/two parents and in modern society, organized daycare just replaces the old informal daycare systems.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 04:34 PM

True, communities used to raise children. These communities included the child's immediate family, as well as, extended family. That is much better than the government set-up that they've got going today. They are clearly failing children and their developmental needs. If they were doing so well, there would be very few social problems within a given society.

-Karri Lewis

Posted by: Karri | June 1, 2005 04:42 PM

I've been fortunate enough to be able to stay home with my kids, and decided not to send them to preschool. I've noticed an interesting difference between my children and those of other moms who have decided to send their children to preschool. While my kids aren't up on the latest episode of Spongebob Squarepants, they are socially well adjusted, kind and considerate to other kids, and very empathetic. They've learned how to deal with other people the way adults deal with other people, rather than learning those skills from other children. Would you let another non-swimmer teach your child to swim? Of course not. Why is it this way with "socialization"? They have not been trained to be conformists, needing the latest toy or clothing style (yes, this can start in preschool). On the other hand, I've noticed the children of friends become increasingly anti-social (less empathetic, more catty, and more inappropriately aggressive) and more conformist. These kids come from a variety of programs - home based care, a highly regarded Montessori preschool, a church-based Mother's Day Out, and one child on my son's soccer team goes to a Head Start type program.

These are the things that happen when you put large numbers of kids together. It doesn't matter what the quality of the program is - it's just an inherent flaw when you group large numbers of children together before they've been able to get a good foundation at home with parents who love them. No day care worker or preschool teacher can get them ready for schooling and the world like a parent can.

The biggest complaint I hear from teachers these days is that parents just aren't involved in their child's education. This is the result of parents that are told that their children must be in preschools at increasingly early ages. The more you separate children from their parents, the more you will discourage the active involvement of a parent in a child's life. Think about how much development goes on between two and five, emotionally and otherwise. Two years isn't enough time for a parent to get to know their child intimately. You'd be sending your kids off just as they're finally learning a little temper control. No, you need all five years (and some would argue even more) to really get to know your child in a way that will all but guarantee parental involvement in a child's life through the school years.

Quality programs are necessary for those parents who simply must work. But what I'm arguing against is the notion that for parents who have chosen to stay home, that preschool is a necessary thing in order to get your children off on the right foot, academically, socially, and emotionally.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 04:44 PM

"What do you except if the day care is done as it's done it the US. You shouldn't compare two totally different kind of systems. For example, US day care 'professionals' don't have master's degree in special pedagogy, psychology or such"

Perhaps the Finn DayCare Workers do have an edge of their U.S. counterparts, but I would put my money on the qualifications of plain old mom and dad.

For thousands of years, parents as primary caregivers have done a terrific job. Perhaps its time to go back to some of our ancient ways

Posted by: Momto3 | June 1, 2005 04:50 PM

My children didn't learn to walk by throwing them in with a bunch of other children who couldn't walk, they didn't learn to talk by throwing them in with a bunch of other children who couldn't talk, and they didn't learn proper social skills by throwing them in with a bunch of other children with no social skills. I gave birth to them, and I've taken care of them. That is my responsibility and right. The Finns may have their socialist "Utopia," but their children have only-when-it's-convenient mommies and daddies. And they are brainwashed from birth that this is "good" and "normal." It is neither. The only-when-it's-convenient attitude is becomming prevailant here, thus we have the push on for "universal preschool."

Posted by: CHNLC | June 1, 2005 05:05 PM

"Perhaps the Finn DayCare Workers do have an edge of their U.S. counterparts, but I would put my money on the qualifications of plain old mom and dad."

So do I, and that's why Finns have generous maternity and paternity leaves. And of course, quite short work days and long vacations.

Day care centers are only one option, family day care is another one, which sadly wasn't mentioned in the article.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 05:07 PM

A surprisingly intense conversation seems to taking place here. I find it disturbing when people site "scientific research" and statistics etc. to support what quite clearly are their beliefs. Politics and science should be kept separate as there are no truths in politics and science can be interpreted anyway you like. It seems people need to come up with these fabricated "scientific" theories to make themselves feel better about their beliefs that in turn are invented to make them feel better about their lives.
And no matter what you say about discipline and order in the Finnish preschool and schooling system it still produces critical thinking and independent minded people. For instance, Fox news would never fly in Finland...

Posted by: Tommi | June 1, 2005 05:12 PM

Am I wrong or was there a research made in Sweden (just recently) which showed that kids raised in public day-care centers did better in life than those who were raised at home? Just mentioning.

Posted by: Sari | June 1, 2005 05:12 PM

>>>"Perhaps the Finn DayCare Workers do have an edge of their U.S. counterparts, but I would put my money on the qualifications of plain old mom and dad."

>>>So do I, and that's why Finns have generous maternity and paternity leaves. And of course, quite short work days and long vacations.

>>>Day care centers are only one option, family day care is another one, which sadly wasn't mentioned in the article.

The problem is, the US is bent on getting kids out of the house as soon as possible, all in the name of the "global economy". One article has mentioned that in the US, universal preschool will get stay at home moms in the workforce sooner.

I think that the push in the US against government daycare and universal preschool is a way of saying, "Enough already! Let's start putting families first again instead of business!" Hence why you can see this sort of passion on the topic over here.

The differences you see in terms of maturity levels of kids are the result of the parents' involvement in the life of their children. It's not necessarily the education system or whether or not children go to preschool. The Finns have obviously found a better balance than we have across the pond.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 05:35 PM

As a Finn my two children were raised in government day care. We chose that due careful weighting of all options.

As I left for the first time my daughter in the day care it was totally heart wrenching to leave her there, on the arms of one of the teachers, crying after me. I was told that she did quit always within few minutes and enjoyed her time, but still...

After two weeks she went happily.

After few months it became heart wrenching because she could not wait to get there and always ran to her friends and the teachers, without a backward glance. Always one of the teachers noticed and stopped her and asked her to wave to the dad.

There were enough of the teachers and the daycare was just as lovely as here described. Both children got individual attention quite enough and lots of training in variety of skills. The teachers were wonderful and warm people, who really loved all the kids there. I do not understand where they manage to find them all?!

My son had a problem pronouncing the letter "R" properly and a special therapist visited there once a week for a year to correct it with witty and stimulating exercises.

All in all, I am truly grateful for the valuable work that the teachers do for those, who are most precious for us. I could not have managed as well with my own kids, but then, I am but an amateur, and they are professionals!

It has also been researched that the parents whose kids are in daycare tend to compensate the time spend outside at work when in evening at home, by concentrating on their kids much more. It was found that the amount of "quality parent time" the kids received was about the same, weather the kids were home with the parent all day long or their days in day care.

And anyhow, my two have grown up to be extremely well balanced, smart and level headed (in positive sense) responsible young adults, far more so than I or my generation ever was. And the same can be said of all their friends as well. As they are the future, it looks good!

Posted by: petteri | June 1, 2005 05:39 PM

"It seems people need to come up with these fabricated "scientific" theories to make themselves feel better about their beliefs that in turn are invented to make them feel better about their lives.
And no matter what you say about discipline and order in the Finnish preschool and schooling system it still produces critical thinking and independent minded people."

It seems that you prefer personal attacks. Hardly, a good way to win over people who have done their research. The research is not fabricated, btw. Give me your email and I will send you lots of info. relating to child development, learning and the like. I understand that it is hard to "hear" something that may not suit your agenda, in regards to your children.
Regards,
-Karri

Posted by: Karri | June 1, 2005 05:41 PM

"It seems that you prefer personal attacks. Hardly, a good way to win over people who have done their research."

The world is full of eccentric people who have "done their research" and whose research is not accepted by the scientific community anywhere in the world.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 06:28 PM

"My son had a problem pronouncing the letter "R" properly and a special therapist visited there once a week for a year to correct it with witty and stimulating exercises."

I had the same problem and got speech therapy at day care. Personally I feel that things I learnt at day care had a huge positive impact on my life and future, and I would have missed a lot without it. Even after over 20 years my old day care center teacher still remembered my parents (and me) when we accidently met again. Had to thank her for the great impact she had.

And most foreigners here seem to have the misconception that kids spent all or almost all of their time in day care.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 06:33 PM

Re: the short work day in Finnland and its relevance to whether or not daycare is hurtful to children

"The orderliness of Finnish society - and the power of Finland's trade unions, which represent about 80 percent of the workforce - was evident again when we asked about the workday. The teachers have a precisely fixed shift: seven hours and 39 minutes. The kids can stay from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. if the parents like, longer than any one teacher's shift."

Is the 7 hours and 39 minute shift worked by these teachers an example of the short Finnish work day? Because that doesn't seem all that short to me.

And what good does a short work day do if "the kids can stay from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. IF THE PARENTS LIKE"? So basically, you work a 6 hour shift and then go have your hair done and have coffee with a friend and then pick up your 3 year old, because it's "what you like."

The hours that the preschool/daycare is open suggest that daycare there is no different than daycare in the U.S. - parents are apart from their young children for up to 10 hours a day.

And even if it was for only 5 hours a day 10 months out of the year, that is *still* over a thousand hours a year that your BABY is away from you. I used to be a working mom and of the school of thought that said "hey, there are still plenty of hours in the day and year to spend with my kids, and they like daycare and preschool and they're fine." But I have changed my thinking because it was just an excuse - something I told myself because I knew that ultimately my needs were coming ahead of those of my children.

Just because a young child likes something doesn't mean it's the best thing for them. And just because your child is fine doesn't mean that EVERY child will be fine. And just because they stop crying after 2 weeks doesn't mean that they're happy - it could mean that they've resigned themselves to being apart from you, because children are adaptable. And just because there's still "plenty of time" in the day/year to spend with your kids doesn't mean that MORE time wouldn't be better.

Posted by: momto4 | June 1, 2005 06:41 PM

"And just because they stop crying after 2 weeks doesn't mean that they're happy"

That comment of the rest of your post reveals that you don't understand anything about Nordic day cares. Day care centers are just one option, there are also family care and many parents stay home for years taking care of their kids.

No kids cries two weeks in a day care, if being in a small group doesn't work with some individual, an appropriate action will be taken (why do you think a master's degree is required?)

Most of your post reflect the typical sugary and not very educated american attitude, where everything is sugar coated, turned into a emotional story, and exaggerated (and then, often someone is sued for 100 million dollars).

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 07:02 PM

"That comment of the rest of your post reveals that you don't understand anything about Nordic day cares."

Don't bother, you're only wasting your time. It's obvious that the writer has too many misconceptions. Maybe the twisted term "nursery school" in the article contributed to that. Most children in day care are school aged by foreign standards since children in Finland start school a year later than in most countries. Many parents use the long maternity leave and children are in day care maybe a couple of years when they're school or nearly school aged.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 07:22 PM

First of all, please refrain from calling me uneducated and criticizing my nationality.

My question about how long the workday in Finnland is was ignored, even though I think it was relevant since the short work day was brought up as an example of how Finnish working parents are more available to their children than American working parents because of the shorter child care day. Yet the center in the article states that children may stay for 10 hours a day, which is hardly a "short day."

I know next to nothing about Finnish daycare, but frankly it doesn't really matter to me what it's like - whether it's family care or daycare centers or preschools. And I wasn't making the assumption that all parents in Finnland are using daycare or family care and that there are no parents home with their children. I am not critical of the Finnish system - I'm critical of the idea that young children are better off in a daycare situation than they are with a loving, nurturing parent. The need young children to be with their parents is a human need, not one defined by nationality.

Posted by: momto4 | June 1, 2005 07:48 PM

"Yet the center in the article states that children may stay for 10 hours a day, which is hardly a "short day.""

Hardly any kid stays that long, except in a totally exceptional occasion. A time range during which a kid can stay was mentioned, it doesn't mean that someone stays the WHOLE period.

"I'm critical of the idea that young children are better off in a daycare situation than they are with a loving, nurturing parent. The need young children to be with their parents is a human need, not one defined by nationality."

And that's why there are very generous maternity (and paternity) leaves. Day care centers make sure that professional and caring care is available in those situations when it is needed.

Many finns do what the american couple in Virtual Finland's article is doing, working at home (partially or completely) when their kids are young:

http://virtual.finland.fi/netcomm/news/showarticle.asp?intNWSAID=36458

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 07:59 PM

After reading all these posts, both for and against government preschool; I have to wonder if the teachers are actually getting the same training in Finland as they are in the U.S.

Most of the training in the United States seems to center around classroom control, having a teacher who actually understands how to interact with a student can make a world of difference.

I do have to wonder about the motives. Are Finnish women as quick to return to work as their American counterparts?

I've also read that the Finn's have a high rate of suicide, one write stated that it could be due in part to the lack of sunshine but it could also be a direct result of having been removed from the security of parents too young.

Children are emotionally attached to parents for a reason and many studies of been done on the effects of early childcare. One particular study comes to mind that said the only group of children who benefited from early childcare were those from severely disfunctional families.

For more Education News visit:
http://reliableanswers.com/hs/news.asp

Posted by: Annette M. Hall | June 1, 2005 11:25 PM

dear karri-

i was socialized and conditioned by my parents, and boy did they indoctrinate me with their fundemantalist, rigid view of the world! i would have taken the finnish daycare center any day.

needless to say, i am alineated from my early socializers.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 12:28 AM

the key difference here is the way society views these issues: americans, being ferociously individualistic, see the issue of childcare as an individualistic problem, whereas finns, along with their nordic neighbours, see this more along the lines of a social responsibility. they believe in welcoming and awakening children.

the american women who posted on here claiming to be virtuos mothers probably did have the option of staying at home on account of the fact their husbands salary was sufficient to provide for the family. what about 60 percent of black women in america who *have* to work? what about single mothers? what about lesbian mothers? solution: get married, preferably to a guy whose salary is equivalent to walmart's ceo?

is that not what bush proposed - or something like that..

at any rate, quality childcare in these countries also promotes gender equity by sharing of responsibilty and thereby setting great examples to their children, and by allowing women to be independent of the husband.

i would like to see these virtous american mothers who claim to be "staying at home-because-it-is-the-right-thing-to-do" talk the talk, once they are traded for a newer model- the 20 year old secretary- and have to go back to work..probably a menial dead-end-one at that because the country lacks trade unions (only 13 percent of workers are in an union).

good luck ladies.

Posted by: good luck ladies | June 2, 2005 12:52 AM

MMmmmm... I think we are all missing a few points.

Yes, the question of whether pre-school in general is 'good/bad', IS a good question, but for the sake of argument, let's back up a second...

Let's assume this is one of the 'best' preschool models in the world. (whether it is or not, is irrelevant). Could a model like this ever happen in the US?? No. Our current schools don't have all teacher's with Master's.... let alone preshools... they sure don't. The US can't fund the schools we currently have, how on earth could they fund universal preschool. They CAN'T. They can't at the degree that it would need to be funded to provide a better environment that a concerned, loving well meaning parent could. The Finnish system, is also MORE than just the preschool, it also involves a solid vacation/holiday schedule for parents. It also involves a solid LEAVE policy for parents. These things are often a joke in the US. How about policies that allow parents to work at home, while their kids are young... also a joke. So, assuming for the sake of argument that the Finnish system is 'the' best.... for the US to actually replicate it across the board, would require teachers with Master's, the government to work with business's to provide good vacation/holidays, and maternity/paternity leave than what is currently available in the US. (not to mention many other items). NOT, going to happen.

My point I'm trying to make... even if this system was good, we'd never be able to replicate it here b/c we aren't going to invest what is truly needed to replicate it. The only thing we'd get is an underfunded universal preschool system. A dedicated parent could do a FAR better job at socializing a child than that.


- Second, did anyone even notice the statement in the first paragraph??

"de-emphasizes education per se in favor of socialization and just plain fun."

This is SOooooo not the track the US is on right now. At this point, much of the reason the US is so focused on preschool seems to be b/c they want to get kids a leg up in academics. The push in the US is for earlier and earlier academics, and earlier and earlier schooling. This is NOT what the Finnish system is about.

- Third. Did anyone notice the article mention those were 4-6 year olds?? Again, far different than the US systems, where you here parents putting 2 year old in preschool. Did anyone notice, that there is not push to teach these 4-6 year olds to read?? Some may pick it up, some might not... what are the US kindergartens teaching?? Reading.


- If anything the above article should teach... that we shouldn't be pushing academics on kids at an early age. THAT seems to be what the Finnish system is about. THAT is the opposite of what the current push for universal preschool is in the US. It's b/c I strongly believe that we shouldn't be pushing academics on our kids at such an early age, that I'll keep my kids out of US preschools.

I can more than adequetely socialize my children through museums, volunteering, play dates, religious functions, family events, story times, library trips, park classes, etc....I'll use those to provide structure, and supply my children with the unstructured imaginative play that they need to develop.

Just an opinion. :-)

Posted by: Anon | June 2, 2005 01:38 AM

Momto3:
"For thousands of years, parents as primary caregivers have done a terrific job. Perhaps its time to go back to some of our ancient ways"

Good old times with "plain old mom and dad" as primary caregivers may actually be a myth, to a large extent. In the extended families of olden days, was childcare really the job of able-bodied working-age people like mom and dad (especially dad)? Wasn't it often those who were too old, too young or too feeble to make a productive contribution elsewhere -- in the field, in the barn, in the forest, in the kitchen, in the family workshop -- who were saddled with childminding, whether they liked it or not?

Mothers have always worked, and there have always been systems to enable them to do so. Before public childcare services, these systems relied heavily on an army of unpaid female labour available at most households: big sisters from the age of 5, orphans, grandmothers, unmarried relatives. Today, that army of women just doesn't exist in our Western world. We send our daughters to school, our maiden aunts pursue their careers, and grannies, although frequently available for shorter babysitting stints, spend a lot of their time enjoying their hard-earned pensions travelling and pursuing personal interests.

This "selfishness" of women may or may not be a deplorable state of affairs, but I am fairly certain of one thing: the quality of childcare can only benefit from the fact that the work is done by people who have _chosen_ it as their career, rather than whoever happens to be available, with or without a blood tie.

Posted by: Virpi | June 2, 2005 01:40 AM

"I do have to wonder about the motives. Are Finnish women as quick to return to work as their American counterparts?"

Than you, Annette M. Hall, for this important question! I think it also has some relevance to "CHNLC", who wrote:

"My children didn't learn to walk by throwing them in with a bunch of other children who couldn't walk, they didn't learn to talk by throwing them in with a bunch of other children who couldn't talk,..."

According to a survey of STAKES (the National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health) there were 36 % of Finnish kids aged 0-6-years in full day care and in partial day care 12 %. Meaning communal day care, the kids with their grandparents etc. aren't included there.

Finnish women have maternity leave of 9 months. Thereafter they get small amount of money monthly from the government if they choose not to put their child into a communal daycare but take care of them at home. As the figures show, many choose to stay at home longer than 9 moths.

So, many children already know how to walk and even speak a little before they enter the daycare.

Posted by: a Finnish mom | June 2, 2005 01:45 AM

It should also be mentioned that parents have to right to stay home from work, to take care of a sick child.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 03:48 AM

"I've also read that the Finn's have a high rate of suicide, one write stated that it could be due in part to the lack of sunshine but it could also be a direct result of having been removed from the security of parents too young."

No, we have always been gifted in that field...

And mothers can by just informing their employer stay home for the first 3 years. With less money, but still...
Also often mothers are doing shortened day, i.e. 6 hours. And the normal daily routine goes in families that the one parent who goes to work later takes the kid to the daycare and then the other, who normally gets off earlier rushes to pick him/ her up. Should anyone regularly try to "park" their kids in the daycare for the maximum time, in very short order would be having serious discussions with the Head Teacher and if it would seem necessary with the childcare authorities. Child welfare is something that is taken very seriously here.

And the US definitely cannot afford the similar system, as that would mean that the taxes would have to be raised... Each society invests in what it feels is important; some in daycare, schools and hospitals, some in importing "democracy" at the end of bayonet.

Ah, sorry for the outburst; I used to love US and it still hurts to see all the sacred ideals betrayed.

Posted by: petteri | June 2, 2005 03:51 AM

"I've also read that the Finn's have a high rate of suicide"

Have you ever heard about the polar night syndrome and vernal hysteresis syndrome that are common contributors to depression and suicidal behavior?

Have you even taken into account that other Nordic countries have the same system, and actually, by Swedish etc. researches, kids who went to day care did better in their lifes than those who stayed at home?

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 04:16 AM

About the high suicide rate: it only affects (less well-off) men, not women.
To be a man in Finland, need money. There is much less of a welfare state for men than for women.
Now, if there is no work for a (longer) while = no car, no own house No car = youre not a man. Not a man = no woman, no friends.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 07:52 AM

"The teachers' base pay is $3,000 a month; they all have master's degrees in education."

Not all. Lots of towns employ teachers with no formal qualification, many of whom actually are far better than those with the qualification. Older teachers do not have the qualification either.
The reason for Pisa success are not the teachers and the other countries' envoys are making a huge mistake listening to them.

Posted by: Correction | June 2, 2005 09:58 AM

When I lived in Finland I once read that the suicides mostly happened in the summer months and yes it was almost entirely the men who committed suicide. One researcher speculated that feeling bad in summer seemed so abnormal that the only response was suicide. I think it may also be linked to the need for what the Finns call Sisu -- abnormal toughness -- and men are probably more "macho" about that need even in Finland. Everywhere men are less likely to seek help, and perhaps especially when they feel helpless.

Posted by: American | June 2, 2005 10:16 AM

No, April is our suicide month. Some researches have claimed that it is because the sharp increase of light that affects a part of the brain like an explosion. I don´t now what that part is called in English..

Posted by: A Finn | June 2, 2005 12:11 PM

Perhaps what some are missing is that there is a huge push toward 'Universal Preschool' and 'Preschool For All' in the US. Articles such as this one are used as 'evidence' on how great it would be if _all_ kids were in preschool. There are those who honestly seem to believe that ALL kids should be in out-of-home situations by age 2!

The Finnish people have choosen to endure a high tax rate to pay for these programs -- that is their choice. Fortunately they've been open enough to also choose to allow the flexibility for various choices, even tho the most frequent choice does seem to be eventually sending their children to institutional care with both parents working outside the home. That this apparently occurs at later ages than the US and some other countries is admirable.

But its naive to think that what fits one society should be foisted upon another.

Posted by: anonymous | June 2, 2005 12:30 PM

First of all I'm amazed at all the personal attacks on the critics of this system. I've seen it many times on this blog.

If the workday is so short how can anyone justify sending their small children to an instution for 10 hours per day. This article stated kids will be left there the entire time; spend more time there than the teachers do.

There is something not right there! Besides, these kids 'obidant kids' sound like robots.
"Everyone waited calmly, no one fidgeted, even the hungry 6-year-old boys. They all then ate quietly and deliberately. The whole scene seemed amazingly well controlled." Is this supposed to be impressive? Not to me. Besides no PAID individual really knows whats best for a child. I don't care what your creditials are.....espescially if you only have "text book expierence" That doesn't compare to actually being a parent.

Posted by: mullerfamilyhs | June 2, 2005 12:35 PM

"They all then ate quietly and deliberately. The whole scene seemed amazingly well controlled."

That's not a description about day care center kids. It describes the whole culture and society.

"Besides no PAID individual really knows whats best for a child. I don't care what your creditials are.....espescially if you only have "text book expierence""

I take it you're not very familiar with the academic world. Master's have done their own research and (especially in Finland, what comes to special pedagogy, psychology and such) extensive practice periods are required, as well as passing psychological tests.

And still it amazes me how some of the writers seems to think a day care center is a place where all the kids go automatically. Heavens sake, it's for those who need it because of the life situation of their families!

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 12:59 PM

Very interesting conversation here! I would say that it is true that it is not easy to compare countries even of similar sizes and histories. Culture has a great effect on societies making each unique. But this also means that those things which would appear extreme socialism and limitless social Liberalism in the American context are simply practical Nordic Protestant-Social Democrat solutions to practical social problems. We don't have culture wars in Finland, neither do see ourselves as a very Socialist country. In fact ca 60% of voters go for the non-socialist parties. This is something our resident US Conservative Phil on his very entertaining and sharp website often misses. He is fighting American battles on a very different terrain. Our model would not be easy to export, but it is working amazingly well - even now - in this society. In many ways the Nordic countries are the best example of highly developed postindustrial societies. Unfortunately it is something related to our particular background and social conditions, but it still is quite true. We are managing to combine an extremely developed welfare state (on American terms it should actually be called social security state)with a dynamic high tech society.

Posted by: Juha | June 2, 2005 01:08 PM

if americans were not so religious and believed in supernatural, nonexistant entities as hell and heaven, hordes and hordes of them would be leaping off buildings. nordic countries have high suicide rates for two reasons 1)non-religious 2)there is hardly any sunlight that the brain needs to secrete the feel-good hormone serotonin.

by the way, have you guys looked into the suicide rates of the elderly in the u.s.? and what to make of the extremely high homicide rates?
69 per 100,000 in the d.c. area alone.

Posted by: hs | June 2, 2005 01:54 PM

"Everyone waited calmly, no one fidgeted, even the hungry 6-year-old boys. They all then ate quietly and deliberately."


Umph, it is called table manners.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 01:55 PM

"Umph, it is called table manners."

Yep, in most countries. But in the US many kids seem to need Ritalin(TM) (a drug for hyperactive kids) to be able to have any manners at all.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 02:52 PM

"2)there is hardly any sunlight that the brain needs to secrete the feel-good hormone serotonin."

In addition to the polar night syndrome, there is also the vernal hysteresis syndrome, where the sudden bright sunlight in the spring time (multiplied by snow) causes a sudden jump in the serotonin level and can cause even worse depression or other sudden changes in the brain chemistry.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 02:56 PM

>

If a dose of Ritalin results in improved manners, I wish you would take some. And, since Ritalin is prescribed for those with Attention Deficit Disorder, perhaps it would also enable you to FOCUS on the subject -- that some U.S. citizens do not support the development and implementation of government preschools whether they are modeled after Finnish preschools or not!

Contrary to what the Finnish and U.S. governments want their citizens to believe, preschools are not THE BEST environment for young children to learn and grow. They are, however, the best environment for developing human resources who are compliant, passive, and predictable. They are the perfect environment for the social engineering of a consumer workforce. For more information visit http://www.johntaylorgatto.com

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 03:33 PM

"some U.S. citizens do not support the development and implementation of government preschools whether they are modeled after Finnish preschools or not!"

Finnish day care centers are NOT preschools. They are safe and caring day CARE for children whose families are in a life situation where the children NEED day care. But, then again, you probably would follow the american model and leave the kids without care at all if the are parents in a certain situation can't stay home taking care of them every day? Or you would put them in a expensive, dirty private day care center with uneducated staff?

You're missing the whole point and really don't seem to understand the fact that day care centers are NOT SCHOOLS. All kids do not go to them, only those whose life situation is different than those kids whose parents can stay home (and many can, much more so that in the US or other countries).
And, of course, you conveniently miss also the important fact that Finnish kids start school a year later than in other countries so that they have time to be kids. You of course would like to make them little pupils with suits and ties?

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 03:53 PM

Exactly. Daycare is one thing and preschool is another.
In Finland, the kids have a chance to go to preschool at the age of 6 (year before they start the real school) if they and their parents wish so. Preschool is half play, half learning, and an excellent way to get kids gradually adjusted to school system. My generation was among the first to get a chance to go to preschool; my home county by chance being among the pilot ones to try that innovation. I was absolutely thrilled to go there, like I earlier had been excited to go to daycare anytime it was available (in a little village where we lived, there weren't that many of the city services for families). Besides the basic reading, writing etc. lessons, kids could pretty much choose if they wanted to use their time by studying or by playing. I would have found staying solely at home very boring, especially since my parents, though at home, were working hard and couldn't offer me that much of their attention.
The idea with the daycare is not to give up all the responsibility to outsiders but raise children in cooperation with them. No matter how devoted a parent you are, child probably benefits from getting to see other people as well, and learning that not all people live exactly the same kind of life.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 04:30 PM

"Finnish day care centers are NOT preschools."

Oh, my mistake. I apologize. In the U.S. we often use the words preschool and daycare interchangeably. Please allow me to rephrase my sentence so that you can better understand what I'm trying to say:

Some U.S. citizens do not support the development and implementation of government daycare centers or preschools whether they are modeled after Finnish daycare centers or not.

This next point is really important, so pay attention:

The reason why the article in the Washington Post (which is an American newspaper) discusses Finnish daycare centers is to present them as a model for American "preschools."

In the U.S. "preschools" are really nothing more than daycare centers. There isn't a discernible difference. I know that may be hard to comprehend from your perspective. But please try to understand.

You should also know that to the average American mind the word "preschool" sounds like it delivers more of value (an education) as opposed to just a daycare center where children are "merely" watched over.

Our government seeks to establish "preschools" because taxpayers here are more likely to support something that they see as "valuable." We would be less inclined to vote to spend tax dollars on daycare or child care or babysitting or any kind of welfare for working parents. Do you see the distinction? If you don't, then I'm afraid we just have to agree to disagree and stop arguing.

Some of us would prefer that the U.S. government not try to develop daycare centers whether they call them preschools or not, and whether they are modeled after Finnish daycare centers or not. That's the point I was trying to make.

And again, if you don't understand this -- then we should just admit that we can't communicate and leave it at that. No hard feelings.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 04:34 PM

"By reputation Finnish day-care inculcates gender equity from the beginning, avoiding stereotyping by games or roles."

"She then said she hadn't initially understood what I was asking about."

I am afraid that I don't understand the comment either. Can someone from the States comment? Do you divide girls and boys into seperate groups and then give them a "gender-based" game? Why was the reporter so amazed at the equality?

Posted by: Inkeri | June 2, 2005 04:59 PM

"Oh, my mistake. I apologize. In the U.S. we often
use the words preschool and daycare interchangeably."

"You should also know that to the average American mind the word "preschool" sounds like"

"we can't communicate and leave it at that. No hard feelings."

The problem is that the american society and Nordic societies are very different in many ways. Although the articles are quite accurate, the terms used them often are not.

Terms like "public (or private) school", "day care", "preschool" etc. have a totally different meaning in Nordic countries so it's very frustrating to try to make an american reader to get the correct picture about something.

For example, I have bad experiences of talking about "public schools" (in Finland) to americans, since they automatically tend to follow the american idea that good schools are expensive private schools, and public schools are very run down and bad schools for poor kids. In Nordic countries, everyone goes to public schools, there's no commercial education industry. This is a public school in Finland:

http://virtual.finland.fi/netcomm/news/showarticle.asp?intNWSAID=30625

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 05:05 PM

"Our government seeks to establish "preschools" because taxpayers here are more likely to support something that they see as "valuable." We would be less inclined to vote to spend tax dollars on daycare or child care or babysitting or any kind of welfare for working parents."

A few questions:

Why don't U.S. taxpayers see daycare for working parents as worth supporting?? This is something I really don't understand. Does this apply to majority of taxpayers or just those that wouldn't need that service for themselves? Are there opinion polls where taxpayers can vote for their preferences for the use of the money they pay? (I wonder, how many might vote for supporting the war in Iraq or some other distant country.)

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 05:08 PM

"Can someone from the States comment? Do you divide girls and boys into seperate groups and then give them a "gender-based" game? Why was the reporter so amazed at the equality?"

Short answer: The reporter is nuts.

Long answer: No, we don't divide girls and boys into separate groups and give them gender-based games to play. Without an example from the reporter -- it's impossible to know what he/she is referring to.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 05:09 PM

"This is a public school in Finland:

http://virtual.finland.fi/netcomm/news/showarticle.asp?intNWSAID=30625"

In all honesty, the school in that picture looks very much like our corporate work places. Since the point of government schools is to develop human resources -- the environment is very fitting. It's sterile and well-appointed with deliberate colors and design to facilitate and enhance performance. Frankly, when we are talking about the formative years of a human being -- it leaves me cold.

I will give you this -- if you are going to send your child to a government school or any school for that matter -- the industrial/corporate look is a marked improvement over the institutionalized prison look.

I'd prefer to let children learn and grow in the safety and security and natural environment of their home and extended community.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 05:24 PM

"Can someone from the States comment? Do you divide girls and boys into seperate groups and then give them a "gender-based" game? Why was the reporter so amazed at the equality?"

Maybe he simply meant that kids aren't encouraged to limit their playing to "gender appropriate" things (e.g. that cars are just for boys and playing home is just for girls).

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 05:26 PM

"In all honesty, the school in that picture"

I wasn't talking about the picture or school building. I was talking about the article. You do understand that all schools (schools _buildings_) are different? At least I hope you do.

Small "village schools" (kyläkoulu in Finnish) are especially liked by Finns.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 05:28 PM

"the school in that picture"

How typically american to think that the house in the picture was meant (or turn the conversation into corporations), and not the article describing the ideas, methods and education given in finnish schools.

And what comes to nordic design style and design taste: clear and pure modern lines, functionalistic style, light colors, lack of ornaments or decoration, geometric (and wavy) shapes, spacious rooms and wood (in Finland especially light colored birch) is favored and liked, not seen as "sterile" but, vice versa, very natural and organic. Something that goes well with the Nordic nature and culture.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 05:36 PM

"In all honesty, the school in that picture looks very much like our corporate work places. Since the point of government schools is to develop human resources -- the environment is very fitting. It's sterile and well-appointed with deliberate colors and design to facilitate and enhance performance. Frankly, when we are talking about the formative years of a human being -- it leaves me cold. "

Oh my, this really shows what a biased mind can turn things into. That particular building simply happens to look like that, all the schools look different just the way they do everywhere else.

Ex-teacher in computer science

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 06:32 PM

"Why don't U.S. taxpayers see daycare for working parents as worth supporting?? This is something I really don't understand. Does this apply to majority of taxpayers or just those that wouldn't need that service for themselves?"

First, remember that you are dealing with a population raised ideally with the ethic of personal responsibility. The individual should be able to take care of themselves without a handout from the government. We are not a socialistic society -- although government schools here are based on a socialistic model. Weird, huh?

Anyway, the majority of taxpayers (who work for a living, have children, and pay for childcare) DO support government funded daycare. But to get the majority of VOTERS to support welfare for working parents -- you have to convince ALL taxpayers, not just the working parents -- that the program will be of "value" to them as well. Otherwise, why would they vote to pay taxes to support someone else? (Remember, we have a basic independent not dependent mindset.)

Providing an education to children is seen as "valuable" -- which is why the government is calling daycare "preschool" -- so that it will be more palatable to taxpayers. Plus our government is trying to convince us that by putting kids in "preschool" we will not only take care of kids, but educate them as well, and by doing so end poverty, stop crime, ensure a work force that can compete in a global economy, and fix social security. We are being told that there will be a big payoff for our investment in preschool that will benefit the entire society -- not just a small segment.

But again, amidst all of the noise and racket about providing "preschools" no one considers what is really best for the children. Everyone agrees that "education" is a good thing -- unfortunately, "academic curriculum" is prized here -- not imaginative play. (Finland has an advantage there. :)

While I realize that many Finns commenting on this blog do not agree with the premise that there is anything inherently wrong with daycare (called preschools in the U.S.), the research we are seeing here about the effect of longterm daycare and preschool on young children (and ages 4 and 5 are considered young) does not support your enthusiasm. You can argue that it's all about HOW the program is conducted -- but the fact that young chidren are subjected to a program at all may be detrimental to them -- in spite of the fact that your personal experience may not support the conclusion of the research studies. (Just because it worked for you, doesn't mean it will work everyone.)

Beyond the research studies, parents who do raise and nurture and educate their little ones at home while exposing them to the bounty of life and socializing them in numerous ways outside of a school, have seen for themselves the remarkable difference educational liberty can make in the life of a child and a family. They are questioning the need for government funded and/or mandated preschool (aka daycare) programs at all.

The U.S. already has government daycare/preschool available for poor and at-risk families. What some of us are concerned about is making them available to everyone regardless of income level, need, or want. Some here feel that if such universal preschool programs are implemented -- they will eventually be made mandatory. That would usurp parental rights. Parents should be able to determine the best course of education for their own children -- the state should not have the authority to force every child to go to preschool. That's why some of us want to resist government preschools.


"Are there opinion polls where taxpayers can vote for their preferences for the use of the money they pay?"

The only opinion poll is the voting booth. Majority rules.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 06:34 PM

"First, remember that you are dealing with a population raised ideally with the ethic of personal responsibility."

Individualism and the right to be an individual is one of the most important things in Finnish culture. Also the law and justice systems is very much based on personal responsibility and self control, not authority control like in many other places, for example.

"The individual should be able to take care of themselves without a handout from the government."

And there are always people who, for their life situation, are not able to take care of themselves. If it's not the society's and government's responsibility to offer all its citizens equal access to high quality health care, education and other basic services, then what is? By ensuring that everyone has at least the basic necessities in life, nordic states also ensure that there is no high level of crime and corruption.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 06:53 PM

You really don't cut me any slack. Lighten up. We're just talking. We can learn more from one another by tolerating each other a little better. :)

The reason I assumed you were referring to the photograph at the link you gave as a shining example of Finnish schools was because you prefaced the link with:

"For example, I have bad experiences of talking about "public schools" (in Finland) to americans, since they automatically tend to follow the american idea that good schools are expensive private schools, and public schools are very run down and bad schools for poor kids. In Nordic countries, everyone goes to public schools, there's no commercial education industry. This is a public school in Finland:"

You pointed out that Americans consider public schools to be run down, and then provided a link to a Finnish school for comparison. That's why I thought you were talking about the picture. Sorry I'm not a mind-reader. Sheesh!

Schools in general leave me cold - regardless of whether they are architecturally pleasant or not. This example of Nordic architecture in a school building really does look like many corporations where I have worked/visited in the U.S. I'm not certain that's a coincidence.

As for the crack about how American it is to turn the conversation to corporations -- what don't you get? Schools here are part of a government-school-industrial complex. As I've mentioned before, the whole point of public schools here (and I believe almost everywhere -- including Finland) is to make good little corporate or government workers.

And no, I don't think every school in Finland looks the same -- give me a break.

I've enjoyed sparring with you - and am glad I had the opportunity to try to understand your point of view. Gotta sign off now.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 07:14 PM

"The reason I assumed you were referring to the photograph at the link you gave as a shining example of Finnish schools was because you prefaced"

Why that school then, it doesn't look especially good. There are much better ones (all public elementary and junior high-schools):

http://www.ark-jaakkola.fi/jarven2.html
http://www.ark-jaakkola.fi/joki6.html
http://www.ark-jaakkola.fi/munk7.html
http://www.ark-jaakkola.fi/kunink3.html

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 07:29 PM

"The U.S. already has government daycare/preschool available for poor and at-risk families. What some of us are concerned about is making them available to everyone regardless of income level, need, or want. Some here feel that if such universal preschool programs are implemented -- they will eventually be made mandatory. That would usurp parental rights. Parents should be able to determine the best course of education for their own children -- the state should not have the authority to force every child to go to preschool. That's why some of us want to resist government preschools."

Thanks for the insightful response! Now I indeed understand the other comments here a little better.

Somehow these discussions have made me think that americans surprisingly seem to be very pessimistic and always fearing for the worst. When state daycare obviously isn't very well financed at the moment it logically can't work very well. However, if it was properly developed it might work and become a good learning environment instead of a harmful one (= positive thinking). Why the development of it shouldn't be neglected is because the possibility to stay at home and look after the kids for 4-6 years isn't a financially viable option to very many and it's a pity that those who need to work and leave children somewhere for the day, can't do so, trusting that they will be in good hands. Could U.S. government be so cruel and force every child to go to preschool if it got developed? I don't think it's a very likely scenario, with the strong family values that you have in U.S. That sounds like something that might happen in North Korea with bad luck.

Thanks anyway & take care.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 07:45 PM

In addition to this conversation, pls read todays editorial in washington post "TRIPPING POINT"

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 11:03 PM

"The individual should be able to take care of themselves without a handout from the government."

why doesn't the same principle apply to corporations then? why are they getting millions of dollars worth of tax breaks, subsidies, and other forms of govt. handouts?

Posted by: hs | June 3, 2005 01:46 AM

This discussion is very interesting as I'm both a teacher in junior high school (the students are 13-16 years) and I have a young son (6 years) at a day-care center. The first two years he stayed at home, first with me and then with his father who took a year's parental leave. (And my partner is an ordinary factory worker.) Then my son stayed for 2,5 years at "family day-care" with a wonderful lady who really understood very young children. There were only three other children besides my son. Now he has stayed one year at the local daycare center which has children also with Middle Eastern and African backgrounds. The highly professional staff know how to work with these kids as well. Of course, they can ask for interpreters for "deeper" conversations with parents. As Mr Kaiser says there is no pressure for academic achievement. Next year, in the pre-school proper they'll start reading and doing sums and things like that. I have been happy with the system and my son seems to be happy as well. On Saturdays and Sundays he often says: Why can't I go to the "garten"?

A comment on silence and control: I think it's good to teach children to have table manners or good manners in general. I do it every day at school; our boys are not allowed to sit at the table with their caps on (an eternal issue in junior high). ;-)

Posted by: Täti | June 3, 2005 02:26 AM

My cousin stayed home in Finland, with benefits, for 9 years with her 3 kids. The maternity leave was for 3 years per child. She also chose to stay home and work for part days, in shifts with her spouse until her last child started kindergarten at age 6. Most parents can choose to say home and receive some portion of their salary for up to 3 years, and then there are short work days or attending university and getting a stipend to elongate your time at home with them. Finns do not generally spend less time with their kids. Most work less hours than American counterparts and get something like 6 weeks vacation a year, too.

I find it interesting that a bitter debate springs up from American parents that know nothing of the system in Finland, other than this article. No one is telling you you have to move there, or adopt their standards.

Suicide rates definitely point to the polar syndrome and a inherited tendency for alcoholism among Finns.

Posted by: Ameri Finn | June 3, 2005 03:27 AM

In a lot of the programs I see in the states, gender bias comes in to play as a side effect of culture. Many of the girls do not play with structuralor science toys and many of the boys do not role play in household or nurturing tasks. A girl child is less likely in the US than Finland to play "president." Girls are encouraged to play more quietly, and boys are encouraged to physical activity. Children tend to clump up into gender exclusive groups.

In the US, a man sold his extensive Lego brick collection on e-bay because he had three daughters and no sons.

Personally I find it atrocious and railed against my son being steered away from art, music and dancing and my daughter is very fond of building things. I do not jump in and correct a female toddler for calling herself "the king."

Posted by: Ro | June 3, 2005 03:42 AM

"If the workday is so short how can anyone justify sending their small children to an instution for 10 hours per day. This article stated kids will be left there the entire time; spend more time there than the teachers do."

Well if the work day is 7.5 - 8 hours and then you add driving time to and from work it adds up. In Helsinki it can easily take 1 hour to and from work each way.

I guess the justification for sending the kids to a so called "institution" is because they want their kids not to be fed, to have clothing, to have a home etc. Not everyone has the luxury of staying at home. Not everyone has the same capabilities or advantages in life. Everyone has different life circumstances and what works for you might not work for someone else. Judging people "for not doing the right thing" in your opinion doesn't change those circumstances. Just because a parent stays at home with a child doesn't mean they provide a loving, caring or even safe environment for a child.

And these so called Finnish "institutions" do a good job a providing a safe, caring enviromment for kids. It's not home but it very well run with children getting individual attention. The child/teacher ratio is quite low. I wonder how you can be so quick to judge if you have not seen Finnish daycare yourself. I beleive that people should take care of their children if they can but staying at home with your children isn't the only right way. People who need to work or even want to work shouldn't be villified if they otherwise provide a loving home for their children.

"There is something not right there! Besides, these kids 'obidant kids' sound like robots. Everyone waited calmly, no one fidgeted, even the hungry 6-year-old boys. They all then ate quietly and deliberately. The whole scene seemed amazingly well controlled." Is this supposed to be impressive? Not to me."

The children are not robots, just well behaved during meal time. When it is time to eat they eat and talk. When it's time to play they play. I wonder if you too would be critical if the children would be wild and climbing all over the tables. You might say that at daycare the children have no supervision and the teachers have no control? Since you beleive daycare in any circumstances is wrong whatever would happen there would not be as good as at home?

I am an American and expect my daughter to sit at the table and eat at dinner time. And to use her manners. I don't think she is a robot.

"Besides no PAID individual really knows whats best for a child. I don't care what your creditials are.....espescially if you only have "text book expierence" That doesn't compare to actually being a parent."

I am sure that many of the teachers ARE parents. They aren't parents to the children in their class but I don't see why they can't provide a safe caring environment for other people's children. If you babysit another person's child you arent' the parent but does it mean you can't meet their needs? Does it mean you can't care for the child? Does it mean that the child can't learn and grow in your care? The teachers chose this profession not because it is for the big bucks but because they wanted to be teachers and work with children. They have lots of practical experience in addition to their education. Just by virtue of the fact that they are paid doesn't mean they are bad caregivers. And anyway, sometimes parents don't even know what is best for their own children. Just because you are a parent doesn't mean you are a good one.

Again, being with a loving caring parent is the best scenario. But life circumstances don't always allow that - people need to work, parents are sick/depressed, there are single parents, etc. There are other alternatives that are quite good where children can thrive even if it's not at home.

We shouldn't be so limited in our thinking. Everything is not as black and white as you make it sound.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 04:45 AM

Well said. Here in the U.S. it is not unusual to find a family that keeps their children at home, in front of the television all day. When they are older the kids play video games for hours. These kids do not get better care with their parent. They may well be best loved by the parent, but they are still getting sub-standard cutodial-at-best care.

Even at the park, I am the only parent playing with their child. The rest are talking on their cell phones.

Posted by: AmeriFinn | June 3, 2005 05:02 AM

"Well, studies HAVE shown that children do better when they are homeschooled, that being said, why wouldn't that apply to small children? I believe that children are better socialized by their parents than other children."

Just because they get some socialization in school doesn't mean that they aren't socialized by their parents as well.

"When you have one unrelated adult to 10-20 children in a daycare, that adult does not hold much credibility or influence over the kids."

In my child's daycare center there are 4 teachers plus an assistant for 20 kids. Of those children 10 are there for half the day only. Typically there are about 10-12 kids in class. The teachers manage the kids very well and are very credible.

"Young children respect those who really love them on a daily basis, not some stranger who is watching 10+ other kids, who doesn't have any emotional connection or investment in the child."

In Finland the ratio isn't 10+ kids to one teacher. And I don't think the teachers are as cold as you make them sound. You are overgeneralizing. If I throw my kid into a place where they are ignored and can't possibly be watched it would be bad for the child no doubt. I don't think this is how the Finnish system typically works.


"No matter how much a daycare worker or teacher loves children, they cannot hold a candle to how much a parent loves and cares for their children."

Yes, a loving parent is the best thing. But let's face it, it's not a perfect world. Not all parents are perfect. You are talking in ideals. Real-life is different. Not everyone can afford to stay at home and not everyone is a good parent.

"Young children need their parents at these very young, impressionable ages and it's sad that their needs are not being met in our adult-self-absorbed society."

In Finland you can stay home for the first 3 years and be guaranteed a job again. This applies to the mother or father. The father automatically gets a month off after the child is born. Finland is very child centered.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 06:52 AM

"In Finland you can stay home for the first 3 years and be guaranteed a job again. This applies to the mother or father. The father automatically gets a month off after the child is born. Finland is very child centered."

And if a child is sick, the parents have the right to stay home from work to take care of the sick child under the age of 10.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 08:09 AM

"Here in the U.S. it is not unusual to find a family that keeps their children at home, in front of the television all day."

Not so different in Finland.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 08:12 AM

A note about the teachers: it is a shame that those well-educated (usually) women get such a lousy paycheck. They study somewhat 6 years making
***
It is also a shame men do not get to even high schools in equal numbers to women. Were it the opposite, women would say the system is anti-women. Now they say men are stupid and lazy.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 09:12 AM

"In addition to this conversation, pls read todays editorial in washington post "TRIPPING POINT"

Could you tell us who don´t subscribe what it is about?

Posted by: EP | June 3, 2005 09:14 AM

"I am not critical of the Finnish system - I'm critical of the idea that young children are better off in a daycare situation than they are with a loving, nurturing parent. The need young children to be with their parents is a human need, not one defined by nationality."

I think most people think that kids are better off at home if they have a good home environment than in daycare. Surely being with a loving parent is a good thing.

BUT I think the idea is really that there CAN be quality daycare that can benefit a child and where a child can grow and thrive. In the REAL world people do need to work and there are safe, nurturing options for daycare. And if a child is in daycare it doesn't mean the parent loves them any less than a child that stays at home.

I feel that there is a big war between stay at home moms and those who send their kids to daycare. I don't understand why people can't seem to understand that different families have different needs and what is best for one family isn't always best for another. There is no best way for everybody and both sides should try to be more understanding of the other's position instead of judging each other so much.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 10:57 AM

I grew up in private child care as my mother was the one taking care of the children. My little brother had that too, but in the age of five he had to move to public daycare and he didn't like it. What I want to say is that it's wrong to judge private/public daycares according to the education of the people working in there. What the other options offers, is not provided in the other and vice versa.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 11:53 AM

It has been said in newspapers that in australia the parents still care about their children and they are looked after at their home.
Dont know if that is true (someone in some of these wanted to move to australia, that should be easy, at least if you look at their governmental immigration pages, just study first what they like to have there; as for the australians, they really should start exporting their cute koala bears to be pets elsewhere rather than limit their population, food for the koala could well be produced everywhere, they produce things like marijuana and sugar even in finland, so why not koala food, whatever they eat)

..in the u.s. foreign department it seems there is a swede at work, human trafficking in finland ? now, it would be easy to spot, there is not that many foreigners here.

http://www.state.gov/g/drl/hr/
http://www.helsinginsanomat.fi/tuoreet/artikkeli/1101979781897

Posted by: | June 4, 2005 06:49 AM

"Amazingly, traffic fines in Finland are exacted in the same way, the amount depending on the malefactor's taxable income."

So elsewhere it does not matter ? So if you own a 100 000 euro car, you can afford to drive as fast as you want to ? (Here, too, really, the fine for those with little income can mean no food for some days, whereas for the rich, no matter how high the fine seems - its still small money)

Posted by: | June 4, 2005 06:51 AM

He said "amazingly" because traffic fines are not done that way in America. Here there is a set rate for each infraction. He's not making a judgment against your system, he's saying it was surprising.

I'm not sure most Americans would be that surprised at the different system, though, considering our judges do at least determine bail based on income. If Michael Jackson is charged with a crime he has to pay millions of times more to stay out of jail pending trial than a poor person would. It might not be affordable for the poor person either, but it's not on the same scale.

I think Finns may be getting a clouded view of America from the type of people who respond to these articles, and maybe Americans are getting a slightly clouded view of Finland. American posters here pretty much seem to fall into ridiculing any government program and saying individuality and selfishness need to be the only basis for society, whereas Finns are ridiculing those and putting all the emphasis on a humane, civil society. It's probably because they're the only people who feel the need to argue. The rest of us Americans are just reading it and wishing our country was more like yours (hopefully with the exception of that, er, homogeneous thing).

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 04:33 PM

I think Finns may be getting a clouded view of America from the type of people who respond to these articles, and maybe Americans are getting a slightly clouded view of Finland.
¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨
Only the same they always had. Truth is americans have a lot more of the welfare state than Finns whose only option is suicide when things go bad. But to tell that is pointless as people are stupid.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 08:25 AM

As far as I know the most common way to get killed at the age of 16 to 25 in Kuhmo was a suicide. In the village I used to live about 15 years, the suicidal rate was suprisingly high for men.

Most of the reasons were the end of their relationships with a woman (at the end of 90's). There was no money problems, or losing their jobs, even if there was a financial depression going on in Finland on those times.

Three of my neighbours, one couple, both retired, very nice people and one border guardian, ended of their lives by their own hand.

At springs, at the beginning of a school day, we had several times a few minute silent moment for those sad incidents.
Last case I know was my fried's little brother lived in Amsterdam for a while, got back to Kuhmo, hang himself in another town (I drove him to bar last summer). Few months after that his father killed himself.

I am not the expert about these things, but this feels like a Stephen King book for me and I'm glad I'm not living there anymore.

I think there is something to do with moving away from dark winter to sunny spring.Tthere is something wrong with something I do not know even if I've lived there 15 years.
I still do not know how to recognize those suicidal candidates, but if there is someone I'll supposed to meet somewhere in Kuhmo does not answer his cellphone after being late for a while, I'm not going to be the first person to open his door.

Posted by: Ukko | June 10, 2005 03:13 PM


The basic salaries of Finnish school teachers ranges between 1600 - 2400 euros per month.

See the OAJ labour union page:
http://www.oaj.fi/Resource.phx/oaj/edunv/palk.htx?menu=edunv

and select the link
"Peruskoulun, lukion ja aikuislukion peruspalkat 1.8.2005 lukien"


For day care salaries select:
"Päiväkotien kasvatushenkilöstön peruspalkat 1.3.2005 lukien"

The principal 2000 euros per month
A teacher 1700-1850 euros per month

Posted by: Campfire | June 11, 2005 05:20 AM

"Amazingly, traffic fines in Finland are exacted in the same way, the amount depending on the malefactor's taxable income."

The fines depends on:
- the kind of traffic violation
- the monthly net income
- number of kids
- taxable value of possessions

For those interested in Finnish language see the fine calculator ie "sakkolaskuri"
http://www.poliisi.fi/poliisi/lp/home.nsf/pages/346EC1B6650EA748C2256BB5003FD54C

Posted by: campfire | June 11, 2005 05:35 AM

The thing about the salary & parents working, its not out of "convenience" you have kids in daycare. You guys reading the articles noticed the 5 bucks a gallon gas. In Finland there is also a 22% VAT on items - food has 17% VAT. That $3000 before taxes is $ 2000 after taxes, and then when you start taking out the rent, maybe even the car you need a 2nd person in the family working so you can get food on the table and clothes. And clothes cost... Its the scale of economy.

Also, I don't understand whats this "short day" thing. If you take the bus to work it takes about an hour - I used to do 1hr 45 minutes. The working hour is generally 7,5 + lunch so you spend 8 hours in the office. Thats 10 hours - not so short.

Posted by: Hank W. | June 11, 2005 09:55 AM

France has free Kindergartens.
And as for old people's homes etc. - the Finnish old are often drugged to bed, there is 3 times more drugs
(US uses even more)
used than in surrounding countries - and not only the old are drugged, often the young, too are.

http://keskustelu.suomi24.fi/show.fcgi?category=1500000000000005&conference=640&posting=22000000013795258

Posted by: | February 2, 2006 07:17 AM

"Payment is small, and on a sliding scale that depends on the family's income. "

For those with small income, it is a lot of money, Finnish incomes are relatively low.

Posted by: | February 2, 2006 07:18 AM

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