In a remarkable exchange of educational insights, a delegation of Vietnamese educators recently experienced a transformative journey to Finland, the land of renowned education. Three of the teachers, Ms Van Anh, Ms Trang and Ms Anna, as part of the delegation of the Tan Thoi Dai (TTD) system were working on the onsite module of their Fun Learning Educator Trainer program, followed by the online and onsite training modules completed in Vietnam over the years of collaboration with Fun Academy. These teachers work on TTD Fun Academy campuses that are committed to continuous professional development in the spirit of Fun Learning.
Fun Academy has trained all TTD teachers online and in Vietnam and conducted audit observations, revealing challenges that necessitated a deeper exploration. These challenges in mind the three Trainer trainees had a very pragmatic and clear orientation to this onsite module of two weeks of intensive training in Finland. The majority of this module was conducted at a Finnish kindergarten that follows the Fun Learning approach, making it a perfect place for observations and reflection.
The primary motivation behind this journey was to bridge the gap between the Vietnamese and Finnish teaching and learning philosophies, trying to identify differences and similarities - while focusing on concrete development goals set by the campus staff in Hanoi.
The Fun Learning approach is designed to support the work of teachers, which means that we help them to identify their joint development goals as a team—we see the effectiveness of committing to development when the goals are set together based on the real needs and challenges, instead of experiencing goal-setting coming from anywhere else. This approach also is an adult-education example of how we then design Fun Learning opportunities for the children.
The Difference in Mindsets
When asked about differences in education, our trainee group highlighted that the Finnish approach emphasizes play and experiential learning, with a lot of freedom for children to explore their interests.
One of the educators reflected, "In Asian culture, outdoor play tends to be more teacher-guided. Here, we witnessed genuine free play where children exercise their creativity independently."
Respect for Children and Teachers
A key highlight was the mutual respect accorded to both teachers and children. Finnish teachers believe in children's capabilities and empower them to make choices within their activities. This respectful atmosphere stands in contrast to the traditional Vietnamese teaching style, characterized by strict discipline.
The teachers shared, "In Vietnam, educators often resort to yelling and frustration when managing the class. This calm and respectful approach in Finland is an inspiration we hope to spread also outside the TTD schools where we have already come a long way." One way to tackle this challenge is to dive more deeply into the classroom management techniques and skills based on the chosen pedagogical approach.
Shifting Parental Mindsets
A significant challenge in Vietnam has been changing parental attitudes. Many parents consider education solely the school's responsibility and are reluctant to engage in their child's learning journey at home.
As Ms Anna noted, "We're seeing a shift in TTD, with parents now showing more interest in supporting their children's learning at home. Collaboration between parents and teachers is beginning to take root and this is also something we would like to see happening outside our own system."
Reflecting on the Journey
The Vietnamese delegation came to Finland with specific expectations. They anticipated lectures but instead discovered a more effective practical approach through observation and direct involvement. They aimed to grasp the principles of Fun Learning and understand the life skills nurtured through these activities.
Reflecting on the journey, Ms Van Anh shared, "We've seen how Finnish Fun Learning teachers manage their classrooms, not rushing through lessons but ensuring meaningful learning. More of this balance is something we aim to bring to our classrooms in Vietnam."
A Universal Connection
Despite language differences, the educators found a universal bond with the children they interacted with in Finland. "Children are the same everywhere," Ms Trang emphasized. "Even without a common language, we can make friends with them."
This journey of discovery between Vietnamese and Finnish educators represents an invaluable exchange of ideas and practices. It's a testament to the power of collaboration in reshaping the future of education together. These educators return home with the wealth of observations and reflections on what makes sense to adapt and apply - they carry with them a practical set of insights and inspirations that have the potential to positively impact the lives of countless children and support the work of their colleagues. Thank you Ms Van Anh, Ms Trang and Ms Anna for sharing these insights with us!
The cultural exchange has been invaluable also for the Finnish staff and children of the practice school Metsäpirtti in Nurmijärvi, Finland. We will be sharing a blog article on their experiences soon, so stay tuned!
Photo credits: Fun Academy photo album