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Learning and teaching - Finland

It is the responsibility of every teacher to support their pupils. All pupils have different needs and require individual pedagogical solutions. Below are the starting points for deciding upon how and where pupil’s are given learning support:

  • Education is provided in local schools or other suitable schools where school travel is as short and safe as possible.
  • A pupil who has minor learning or adjustment problems is entitled to remedial teaching in addition to mainstream education.
  • Part-time SNE is to be given, in addition to other lessons, to pupils who have mild learning or adjustment difficulties and who need special support.
  • Whenever possible, a pupil receives SNE within a mainstream class although it is possible to study in a special class or in a special school.
  • A pupil is entitled to SNE when necessary. A pupil who cannot follow their education owing to a disability, illness, delayed development or some other reason, can be admitted or transferred to SNE.
  • Each pupil with special learning needs has an individual educational plan (IEP).

The pupil receives help in overcoming learning difficulties by means of the different models of support available which are determined according to the quality and extent of the difficulties. The difficulties can arise from disabilities, illness, deficits or psychological and social problems. The current tendency is that the problems are overlapping when the differentiating of the core problem in learning is difficult. The assessment has to be based on a holistic and systemic perspective, where cognitive, physical, emotional and social aspects are taken in consideration at the same time.

Assessment information helps the teacher to provide lessons in a form which supports the pupil best. This can mean, for example, the modification of the physical and social learning environment based on the individual ways of learning. Some pupils benefit from studying in a quiet and shady area, whilst other pupils prefer to study where there are many voices and brighter lights. Some pupils work happily in a team whereas other pupils prefer to study alone. 

The assessment information on a pupils’ level of progress, performance and possible obstacles in learning, helps to provide education according to the capabilities of a pupil. To gather the required data it is necessary to use a variety of tests. The tests can measure performance as well as possible learning difficulties. According to the results the teacher can temporarily divide the class into smaller and more homogeneous groups where the lessons meet the capabilities of the pupils. Teaching methods, materials and support services can also be arranged differently in different groups. These arrangements sometimes require extra resources such as assistants and/or teachers. 

The individual plan, IEP, is to be updated by using on-going assessment tools such as observation, questionnaires etc. A pedagogical log-book can be used along with the individual plan. The teacher follows the pupil’s progression and performance and writes her/his observations down. In this way the changes required in the individual objectives and/or teaching methods are undertaken in time. It helps also to look retrospectively into the pupil’s learning history.

The teacher also needs assessment information when a pupil does not seem to achieve the objectives of the general syllabus. The individualisation of a syllabus requires valid and reliable knowledge of the pupil’s prerequisites in learning as well as an official decision to provide special needs education which requires trustworthy investigations, the law states that “The decision should be motivated by an official statement of a psychologist, a doctor or a social worker”. Sometimes the statement includes a diagnosis, but the decision does not need to be based on a diagnosis. The pedagogical statements which are based on a teacher’s careful pedagogical assessment have currently become more important in decision-making concerning SNE.

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