LiiNK Blog: High Respect for Teachers in Finland

September 18, 2012

By: Dr. Debbie Rhea, 2012

I have found that teachers and professors are very highly respected in Finland. All teachers have to have a master’s degree before they can enter the classroom or the gymnasium to teach. At the elementary level, the classroom teacher is prepared to teach the content areas and one of the following three areas: physical education, music, or art. For someone to teach strictly physical education, they have to get the master’s degree in physical education and then they will teach at the lower (grades 7-9) or upper (3 years of high school) secondary school settings.

There is only one university in Finland that educates students to be physical education teachers with the Master’s degree needed. This is Jyvaskyla University. It is located about 3 hours north of Helsinki by train and has a population of about 131,000. Only 80 physical educators are trained at this university at a time in the Master’s program and everyone of them has a job when they graduate. Each of the universities is highly selective with the students for each discipline, so these physical education students are the cream of the crop. There is a need for more physical educators, but they don’t have the resources to train more than 80 per group at this university.

I will be going up there to observe in the next couple of weeks. This is such a different situation than in the U.S. We have plenty of university graduates in physical education and very few jobs for them. U.S. physical education specialized students have to be able to teach a different subject area in order to be hired most of the time as a teacher.