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number of children to each master or mistress being 35.

With regard to elementary education in the towns, it should
be noted that the school age is from seven to thirteen instead
of from nine to thirteen as in the country, and that school at-
tendance is practically compulsory. In 1907-8 the town elemen-
tary schools were attended by 34,628 children, rather more than
half of whom were girls.

Of the 1,150 teachers, no less than 843 were women.

1 In 1877-8 the teachers numbered 363, in 1907-8 there were
3,197, of whom 1,681 were men and 1,516 women. There were
also about 2,000 persons giving instruction of various kinds in
addition to the regular teachers.


years ago there was a serious difficulty in providing
sufficient teachers, and even to-day it is not easy to
nil vacant posts. The salaries of teachers are as fol-
lows : the commune provides a house, garden and fir-
ing, or the money equivalent of these, while the
State pays a salary of 900 marks to single teachers,
whether men or women, and 1,100 to teachers with
families. The original salary is increased by 20 per
cent after five, ten, fifteen and twenty years ' service.
The teacher has further the prospect of a pension,
but here the principle of equal pay for equal work
ceases to be applied, and men are better pensioned
than women.

In spite of the extraordinary development of the
People's Schools, of which it is reckoned there is now
in the country districts one per 957 inhabitants, as
against one per 1,619 in 1896, the popular need of
education has not yet been met. At the present time
only about 50 per cent of the children of the school
age attend the elementary schools in the country dis-
tricts, and it is calculated that even if each of these
schools had as many pupils as it could receive, some
two thousand more would still be required to receive
all the children. Against this deficiency in schools
we have to place the fact that thanks to the efforts
already alluded to of parents and the clergy, practi-
cally every one in Finland can read from the age of
seven and a very large proportion can write. This
has been the case for a couple of centuries and is
very much to the credit of the country.

These remarks do not apply to the children of
school age belonging to the Eussian (Greek Ortho-


dox Church,) who in 1906 numbered 9,106, of whom
2,694 were absolutely without any education.

A strong desire exists to make elementary educa-
tion compulsory, so that the advantage of the FoUcs-
kolamay be shared equally by the entire population.
At present, the number of children of school age at-
tending elementary schools varies from 76 per cent
in the southern province of Nyland to only 30 per
cent. in the northern province of Uleaborg. A first
step in the direction of compulsion was taken in 1898,
when it was decided that the country communes
should so divide themselves into districts that all the
children could attend a folkskola without walking
more than 5 km. A school was to be erected in each
district thus formed, provided that it contained at
least thirty children seeking entrance. In 1910 the
Diet voted a Bill on these lines, making elementary
education compulsory and extending the course from
four years to six. But Eussia here, as in other cases,
blocks the way of progress, and there is at present
no chance of the Tsar giving his sanction to the Bill.

The Finnish child, if its education is to be con-
tinued, will pass from the People 's School to a State
or private Secondary School. The State maintains
Classical Schools (Lyceer) and Modern Schools
(Realskolor) for boys, and Modern Schools for girls
(Fruntimmersholor). In the Classical Schools,
Latin and Greek are taught ; in the Real Schools and
Girls' Schools these are replaced by modern lan-
guages. The Boys' Schools have eight classes, the
highest of which leads on to the University; the
Girls' Schools have only five classes, but in many


places continuation classes are either provided or
subsidized by the State for those girls who wish to
become University students. The ordinary teach-
er's qualification is the degree of Magister and the
attending a Normal School, which is an ordinary
boys' school at which would-be teachers attend the
lessons and have themselves to give trial lessons, be-
sides passing an examination in pedagogy, in order
to acquire the teacher's certificate. The hours of
instruction are the same as at the elementary
schools. The course, however, is an eight years'

No corporal punishment is permitted in the sec-
ondary schools, and it will probably soon be abol-
ished in the elementary schools.

The private schools include Mixed Schools, Girls'
Schools and Real Schools, the teaching in all of
which corresponds in the main to that given in the
State Real Schools. All the private schools receive
substantial support from the State.

They are regarded as an important field for ex-
periment, and it is here that the substitution of a
modern for a classical education first took place.
The most important experiment, however, was of
the Mixed School (samskola), which began to appear
in the 'eighties. Quite apart from educational the-
ory, its cheapness commended it to a poor country,
it being obviously much cheaper to build a single
school for both sexes than to establish separate
houses with different teaching staffs for girls and

Very different opinions exist on the subject of the


Mixed School, but the balance seems on the whole
to be in favour of it. None of the more serious
moral troubles which it is sometimes supposed to
bring in its train have appeared. It is admitted,
however, that in many schools a certain amount of
flirting takes place between the girls and boys in the
higher classes, and complaints have been heard from
girls that the mixed school makes the boys less manly
and more snobbish. One also hears of boys requir-
ing a great deal of pocket-money in order to give
their best girls a good time. On the other side one
can set such stories as the following, coming from a
schoolmaster, who relates that the boys of his school
requested that girls from other schools might be in-
vited to the annual dance, as they did not look upon
their own as real girls. Many girls again have de-
nied the existence of much flirtation at their schools.
When opinions are so contradictory one can only
infer that the conditions are widely different at dif-
ferent schools. I should surmise that the Mixed
School is seen at its best in the country districts,
where there is less opportunity of spending money
and going to cafes.

Perhaps the most serious criticism of the Mixed
School lies in the still unsolved question whether it
is good for girls to be educated just the same as boys.
(There is, indeed, a certain difference in the gymnas-
tic training.) It seems possible that there is a very
real danger of the girls overexerting themselves. A
sries of weighing experiments made a few years ago
in the mixed schools in Helsingf ors showed that the
girls decreased in weight during the term and only


increased during the holidays, while the boys in-
creased throughout the year, though most during the
holidays. Whether the result is the same in the
mixed schools in the country I am unable to say.
The situation might perhaps be summed up by say-
ing that while it has been shown that co-education is
free from the terrors with which early prejudice
clothed the idea, it has not yet been proved that its
advantages are so overwhelming that we ought
forthwith to adopt it.

Hitherto the State, while liberally financing the
mixed secondary school in private hands, has estab-
lished very few such schools of its own.

The administration of the schools is in the hands
of the Board of Education, which is subordinate to
the Ecclesiastical Department of the Senate. 1 Dif-
ferent sections preside over the elementary and sec-
ondary schools and provide inspectors for the vari-
ous districts. The authority of the Senate, however,
stops short of the University, which is at once the
goal of the schools and entirely independent of the
administration presiding over them. The Univer-
sity is one of the comparatively few old institutions
in Finland. It was founded at Abo in 1640, and
after the great fire was transferred to Helsingfors
in 1827.

At the end of their eight-year course the pupils at
the secondary schools take the so-called Student Ex-

1 As this title may be misleading, it should be pointed out that
the Church and the School administration for the last forty
years have been separate. The Ecclesiastical Department cor-
responds to the Cultus Ministerium in other countries.


amination, the papers of which are set and corrected
by University professors. Subject only to success in
an oral examination at Helsingfors, those who pass
gain the coveted privilege of studying at the Uni-
versity and wearing the students' cap.

The University is divided -into six faculties, con-
taining over 3,000 students, more than 700 of whom
are women.

Its social life is founded on the Student Corpora-
tions, to one of which every undergraduate belongs.
The corporations are twelve in number and are based
on locality. They are not, however, residential, like
English colleges. Each corporation has its own club
premises and carries on its separate social life.
There is also a Students' House to which all stu-
dents have access, independently of the corporation
to which they belong.

Thanks to an investigation made by the present
Vice-Chancellor, it is possible to determine with
considerable accuracy the different classes of society
from which the students are drawn. Professor
Hjelt divides the students according to their fathers '
rank or profession into upper, middle and lower
class, and taking two three-year periods gets the
following results :

Upper, Middle, Lower,
per cent per cent per cent

1894-6 Men Students 51.8 30.7 16.6

.1894-6 Women Students 75.0 21.5 2.9

1903-5 Men Students 46.5 34.0 19.1

1903-5 Women Students ... ... 49.3 33.4 15.9

The result shows very clearly to what an extentthe


advantages of higher education are within the reach
of the middle and lower classes. The privilege, how-
ever, seems often to be dearly purchased, for many
of the students are forced, through lack of means, to
study on borrowed money, and in later life quite a
number of men are still paying off the capital loaned
to them in their student years. Many of the stu-
dents manage on very small sums, but there is plenty
of extravagance among the richer ones and much
money is wasted at restaurants.

The first woman student matriculated in 1870, the
next in 1873 ; but for a long time women studied in
very small numbers only, and it was not until 1901
that they were placed on an absolute equality with
the men. They have shown a rather marked prefer-
ence for the Historical-Philological faculty. The
girls of the Finnish-speaking lower class have been
peculiarly ready to avail themselves of the privilege
of University education, as the following table of
Professor Hjelt relating to women students in 1893-
6 and 1903-5 shows:

Upper, Middle, Lower,

per cent per cent per cent

Swedish speaking 72.1 24.2 2.9

Finnish speaking 39.9 37.0 19.9

The percentage of students, both men and women,
who complete their University course by taking the
final examination is rather small and is decreasing,
the reason being that most girls and boys are keen to
take the Student Examination as the culmination of
their school career, but do not desire a University


degree. This remark is specially applicable to girl

In addition to the primary and secondary schools
and the University, there exist many other educa-
tional institutions of great importance to the coun-
try, by means of which knowledge filters through to
all classes of society. Among the most interesting
of these are the so-called People's High Schools, a
kind of popular university built upon the foundation
laid by the elementary school. The idea came origi-
nally from Denmark and has been adapted so as to
meet Finnish conditions. The aim of these schools is
both ideal and practical. They try to awaken among
the peasantry an interest in culture and in the prob-
lems of the day and at the same time train them in
the best methods of farming and housekeeping. The
first of these schools was founded at Borga in 1889,
and to-day there are over forty of them, in about
two-thirds of which the instruction is given in Fin-
nish. The majority of the students are between the
ages of eighteen and twenty-two and belong to the
landowning peasantry. Each school has between
twenty and one hundred students. In the year 1907-
8 the total number of students attending the schools
was 1,447, of whom 578 were men and 869 women.
The course lasts from November 1st to May 1st. The
success of these People's High Schools is undoubt-
ed, and most of them receive an annual subvention
from the State.

It is not only from these schools, however, that
culture is gradually being spread through the Finn-
ish country-side. The University students them-


selves have through their corporations organized a
kind of Extension lecturing with a similar object.
In the vacations students travel about the country-
side spreading the knowledge they have themselves
acquired at the capital. It is an excellent plan. It
keeps the students in touch with the working people,
it is instructive for the country population, whilst it
benefits the student intellectually, because, by forcing
him to explain his knowledge to others, it compels
him first to think it out and make it clear to himself.
One would like to see a similar movement in other
countries. Moreover, the student corporations have
also raised considerable funds for sending special
lecturers to country places, for the founding of li-
braries and for other educational aims.

A word must also be said of the efforts made by
the country-folk themselves at self -improvement, in
the shape of the Young People's Clubs which have
developed so rapidly of late years. The idea started
in Osterbotten in 1882 and has since spread to every
part of the country, the different branches being
kept in touch by means of a federal body situated in
Helsingfors. These clubs have a double purpose.
Firstly, they afford young people a regular oppor-
tunity of meeting, which is by no means always an
easy matter in the Finnish country-side, and of in-
dulging in singing, dancing and theatricals. Sec-
ondly, they aim at interesting them in art, litera-
ture, science and the questions of the day.

There are a great number of other educational in-
stitutions which cannot be mentioned here such as
navigation schools, agricultural colleges, gardening


schools, commercial schools, schools for abnormal
children, etc. Finally, reference must be made to
the important Technical High School at Helsingf ors,
which has some sixty lecturers and over four hun-
dred students, who are divided into five faculties
architecture, engineering, machine engineering,
chemistry and land-surveying.

Education in Finland is carried out under certain
disadvantages, some of which are inevitable, others
of which might be remedied. Among the former
none is a more serious handicap than the large num-
ber of languages that have to be studied. The fol-
lowing are compulsory: Finnish, Swedish, Russian
and German, together with French in the modern
and Latin in the classical schools. It is difficult to
see how the number is to be reduced, for Finnish is
practically useless outside Finland and Eussian out-
side Russia, and, although Swedish opens up the
riches of the Scandinavian world, yet it is inevitably
to West Europe that Finland turns in order to keep
in touch with the great world. English is still a
voluntary subject in most schools, but is being
studied more and more. In fact, it has become very
fashionable to learn English.

The circumstances which condemn the Finnish
school-child to learn half a dozen languages may be
deplored, but can hardly be altered. The system of
education is, however, fairly open to criticism in
certain respects where changes might well be made.
Thus, too high a value seems to be set upon the
purely intellectual element in education, which is
bad both in itself and also because Finland is too


poor a country to support a large leisured class. The
attitude expresses itself most clearly in the tendency
for secondary schools to prepare their pupils too ex-
clusively for a University career. This uniformity
is sometimes attributed to the prevalence of the Ger-
man ideal in Finland. How far the accusation is
just it is difficult to say. It is certain that Finland
has largely gone to school in Germany, and that her
debt to German culture can hardly be overestimated.
But the excessive importance attached to University
education and intellectual culture is probably due, at
least in part, to the desire of the Finns to turn out
as quickly as possible a Finnish-speaking educated
class qualified to hold the more important positions
in the State, this having led to an overproduction of
students or, at least, to a too rapid production of

However this may be, one cannot help feeling that
a greater elasticity in educational ideals would be
good for Finland. Boys and girls in the secondary
schools work for years in order to pass the Student
Examination, and, having done so, never take a de-
gree. They have, indeed obtained what they desired,
the commercial value of the Student Examination,
such as it is, and the honour it brings. But the en-
ergy which has gone to winning these might in hun-
dreds of cases have been much better applied in
other directions. Moreover, the country itself loses
by having its intellectuals turned out too much of one
pattern. That a reaction against this excessive in-
tellectualism will take place it is fairly safe to proph-
esy, and this will no doubt bring with it a change


in the relation of the University and the secondary
school. Fears are already being expressed that the
present tendency, if unchecked, might lead to the
production of an intellectual proletariat despising
manual labour, and remedies for the excessive uni-
formity of the system are being eagerly discussed,
and i n the People's High Schools put into prac-

A foreigner may perhaps be allowed to question
whether there is sufficient personal contact between
students and professors at the University. There is
no college system with its nexus of common resi-
dence to unite them, and the students seem, accord-
ing to our English notions, to be left too much to
themselves. This is especially the case in their
choice of lectures. They do not map out a course of
study and stick to it, but flit from one subject to an-
other like bees among the fair flowers of learning,
with the result that too many emerge from the Uni-
versity without knowing anything really well. I be-
lieve that students are in the habit of attending far
too many lectures, and several have told me that
their first and second years have been largely wasted
for this reason. The remedy is surely a greater su-
pervision of the students by the professors, who
could teach them how to study systematically and
thus go directly to their object instead of making a
long detour. Moreover, too many students seem to
come to the University without any definite idea of
what subjects they want to study. Here the advice
of the teachers in the higher classes of the schools
ought to be of value.


Increased personal contact between teacher and
taught would probably counteract another exagger-
ated tendency in the Finnish student namely, the
propensity to run after every new thing. It is so
easy to start a new interest in young Finland, so dif-
ficult to keep it going. A thing is tried, becomes
fashionable for a moment, and then is replaced by
something else, which as rapidly gives way to yet an-
other interest. Altogether, there is far too much
intellectual fluidity among the younger generation of
Finns, and not enough stability.

Another sphere in which one would like to see a
change is that of sport. That sport should play a
very much smaller part in Finnish than in British
education is neither to be wondered at nor regretted.
What one does regret, however, is that boys and
girls who in their early years became adepts at sport
should, on going to the University, almost entirely
abandon it. The reason assigned for it is lack of
time. But as a great many students find plenty of
time to spend in restaurants and in amusements
generally, in the majority of cases the reason does
not seem a convincing one. Moreover, one feels that
a moderate amount of time devoted to outdoor exer-
cise would have an excellent effect on their studies
and help to keep their minds fresh and brisk. It al-
ways strikes one rather painfully to see the splendid
skating-rinks covered with children, while young
men and women are hardly represented at all. If
the Finns did not allow the restaurant, with its sed-
entary habits, to take the place of sport until a few
years later than is the case at present, they would be-


come a splendid nation of athletes, and this without
the sacrifice of intellectual pursuits. It is pleasant
to be able to add that in the opinion of competent ob-
servers the restaurant habit has been diminishing
during the last twenty years and the interest in
sport increasing.

There are many features of Finnish education
that strike one as being admirable. First of all, the
Finns are prepared to spend money on their schools.
The more recent school-buildings are models of their
kind and would excite admiration in any country.
They are kept extremely spick and span and are
splendidly equipped in every way. The teachers
seem to do their work efficiently and to be keen on
keeping in touch with educational movements all
over the world. They are enabled to do so with
considerable success, as sums are available to assist
teachers desirous of spending their holidays abroad
in studying foreign school systems. The Univer-
sity also has in its gift a number of valuable travel-
ling scholarships, thanks to which much of the best
work of Finnish scholars has been rendered pos-
sible. The importance of such scholarships in a
relatively poor country can hardly be overestimated.

The willingness to spend money on education is
only the outward sign of one of the best features
of Finnish character namely, a genuine intellec-
tual curiosity. Eef erence has already been made to
the extravagant forms this enthusiasm sometimes
takes, but it is at least the defect of a noble qual-
ity. This little nation lying in what even to-day
seems a remote corner of Europe, and which a hun-


dred years ago seemed almost a mythological coun-
try, has for over two centuries had one of the best
records for literacy in the whole of Europe, and is
to-day informed by a resolute determination to be
in touch with "the best that has been known and
thought in the world." Teachers have been among
the most honoured men and women in the country,
and there is nothing of that condescending attitude
towards the profession that was common in England
not many decades ago, and which even to-day has
not entirely disappeared.

I should not like to close this chapter without
some reference to the professors and students with
whom I have had the honour of being associated,
and from whom I have received kindness which I
shall never forget. The men students are simple,
manly fellows, remarkably free from "side" and
very easy to get on with. The girls are capable
and intelligent and by no means blue-stockings. Al-
together, the relationship between teachers and stu-
dents seems a very pleasant one, marked by good-
will on either side. Of the professors it is enough
to say that their work is valued most highly by those
who know it best. The quality of Finnish research
is familiar to English readers through the books of
Professor Edward Westermarck, Professor Yrjo
Hirn and others. Finnish professors are by no
means exclusively academic in type, and many of
them take an important share in the public life of
the country.



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Online LibraryArthur ReadeFinland and the Finns → online text (page 13 of 22)