This is an edited version of an earlier post, after I had received my confirmation letter from the university.
It will be five months away in Helsinki, Finland, at the Aalto University School of Business. The first time I will be away from home for such a period of time (the army notwithstanding), the first time taking a plane in years, and the first time doing all these alone.
This sojourn is probably nothing compared to the years my counterparts have spent abroad, studying, working. Yet this is my chance to see a different part of the world, on my own. And while I am tingling with excitement, for a person who is poorly adapted to cold conditions, spending time in Finland throughout an unforgiving winter season seems like a terrible decision (it is). If an air-conditioned room at 25 degrees Celsius is sometimes too chilly for me, living in sub-zero temperatures is going to be a challenge.
If so, why Finland?
Its education system has always fascinated us. Whenever there are public discussions on Singapore’s education system, and how improvements should be contemplated, “why can’t we be like Finland” is a common retort. “Let’s learn from the Finnish example”, they say: small class sizes, highly-qualified educators, and the absence of examinations (and with them, techniques involving rote memorisation and pedantic regurgitation). Hearing the experiences of Finnish students who have benefited from these pedagogies would be especially meaningful.
Moreover with my little Model United Nations endeavours, it would be interesting to connect with individuals and youth organisations working on similar projects, and to be a part of these activities too.
I am not looking to provide a rigorous or critical evaluation of Finland’s education system. I am in no position to. Many of my posts will instead be centred on people, stories, narratives: first-hand opinions that I have read about and heard of. I want to challenge my personal biases and preconceptions. For instance, we speak a lot about egalitarianism – one of the socio-economic notions that the Nordic model is premised upon – but what would it be like to stay in such a country? Besides the education system, the media structure is fascinating too. How is it that Finland, with a population size similar to Singapore’s, can house so many newspapers in circulation? Differences in geography? Political sensitivities and media policies? More importantly, how is it perceived on the ground, by the people?
The trip is quite expensive, but it is a worthwhile investment.
I still have my newspaper subscriptions, so I will blog about developments in Singapore on Mondays and Wednesdays (the original plan was to write more for the Breakfast Network, but we know how the cookie has crumbled, for the time being). Because I am not a good photographer, and my exploits are typically monotonous or excessively frivolous, I will do a Friday round-up of the week – Finnish Friday – from start to finish.
That’s it for the time being I guess. Hello Helsinki.
Check out The Finland Chapter, from start to finnish.