free and universal

Hei from Helsinki,
       Did I read correctly that the Saudi prince has decreed that women will henceforth be permitted to drive cars and that the biggest rationale behind the decision is that this may unlock untapped economic potential in the kingdom? And did the edict come simultaneously with an order to arrest 19 women who had hitherto been campaigning for liberalisation of these laws? Haven’t they got this all wrong? Aren’t their motivations all askew?      We are in Finland now, where women play an equal part in society and nobody questions their right to do so. The Finnish education system provides a good contrast with the motivations behind the Saudi moves.

free and universal education

    In Finland, education is free and universal. There is no such thing as a private school. Everyone has the opportunity to access education, everyone is fed a wholesome meal during the school day, teachers are remunerated well, the profession is revered and standards are high. The Finnish education system’s results consistently place them at or near the top of educational systems in the world. About 45 years ago, they set out deliberately to arrive at this result.

the fruits of universal education

           Today, this is a very civilised country. Everybody is bilingual. (Maria says, “we know how important it is for us to speak English”.) The Finns were recently listed as the happiest in the world (and their immigrants were also said to be the happiest). The crime rate is declining in almost every category. Adult education rates are increasing every year. Wage rates are relatively high. Poverty is voluntary. People are healthy and active – at least during the summer months. Violent deaths and suicides are at their lowest in four decades. And the economy is strong. (Parsi tells us Finland is the only nation to have paid off its war reparations bill.)

      None of this is down to chance. The secular, universal and free education system underwent a strategic overhaul in the early 1970s. Today, they are proudly reaping what they sowed at that time.

   But, what was their prime motivation? To mobilise more untapped economic potential? Or to allow all of the individuals within the population to achieve what they desired? I suggest it was the latter. These two motivations are not mutually exclusive, but they are completely different motivations for change. The Saudis might be arriving in the 20th century at last but are they doing it for the right reasons? I don’t suppose they will want to visit Finland for a lesson.

    Toivon kuulevani sinusta pian


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