Finnish bank accounts breached

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Read Time:2 Minute, 18 Second

Online malware attacks on major Finnish banks in recent weeks have originated in Russia, says Mikko Hyppönen, Chief Research Officer at the data security company F-Secure. Nordea, OP-Pohjola and Sampo Bank have been hit by a trojan that has caused financial losses to hundreds of customers.

OP-Pohjola says that more than 10,000 euros have been illegally transferred from its customers’ accounts since the beginning of the year.

According to police, the malware is still functioning and may stealthily transfer funds from customers’ accounts into the accounts of criminal elements.

Inspector Timo Piiroinen of the National Bureau of Investigation told YLE that losses have occurred, but was unwilling to name any specific sums. Also, he was unable to say if banks will pay for losses, or if customers themselves will have to suffer from the effects of the malware.

According to Piiroinen the malware on an infected computer is activated when a customer establishes an online connection to his or her bank. It exploits the connection and the user security information provided by the customer, making account transfers during the session. The user does not necessarily even realize that the transfers are being made.

“The attack is still going on. This malware is still on people’s computers. This situation is not over. The situation is ongoing,” Piiroinen told YLE on Friday.

The National Bureau of Investigation has confirmed that the targets are customers of Nordea, OP-Pohjola and Sampo Bank.

Finnish banks have been hit by various online attacks, starting last summer. Piiroinen was unable to say if the perpetrators have been the same.

Few incidents

OP-Pohjola reports that the malware has been responsible for transfers of over 10,000 euros from customers’ accounts since the start of the year. The bank has not yet decided whether or not customers will be reimbursed for their losses. The liability of banks for funds stolen through online transactions is dependent on how responsible the customer has been in using the service.

According to OP-Pohjola, some of the transfers from customers’ accounts were stopped, but some went through to the criminals involved in the scheme. Fewer than 20 customers have been victims of the scam.

Nordea Risk Management Director Kari Oksanen says that he is unaware of a single instance in which a Nordea customer’s money had been lost. However, he conceded that attempts have been made, but the funds have successfully traced

“The sums involved in these attempts have been very small, less than a thousand euros. These have affected only a few customers,” Oksanen explains.

Oksanen added that all of the attempts took place on Monday, January 16th.

If needed, Nordea is to decide on possible reimbursement on a case-by-case basis.

YLE

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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OccupyNigeria protest from Finland (13.1.2012)

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Read Time:56 Second

(Codewit.com) Nigerians living in Finland joined their brothers and sisters in Nigeria and other parts of the world to protest the removal of fuel subsidy by the federal government.

Even at the harsh severe cold weather at -3 degree,  most of them turned up in their numbers to join in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Nigeria. In their protest speech, they called on the Nigerian government to fight corruption ,to address the challenges they have in power, infrastructure, insecurity and to create  job for her citizens.

 During the protest, a  little misunderstanding occured as few people were emphasizing that insecurity and issue of bokoharam should be the main message of the protest and not the removal of fuel subsidy. This issue nearly caused confusion among the groups involved.

Later, after the rally, Mr. Ikuesan and few others submitted a protest letters to the Finnish Parliament , the finnish President, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Affairs Minister, and the Head of Foreign Affairs Committee registering their protest on the removal of fuel subsidy in Nigeria.

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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THE GENOCIDE AGAINST SOUTHERN CHRISTIANS IN NIGERIA, Peaceful Protest In Finland

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Read Time:59 Second

 We have written a strong worded letter which we have forwarded to the relevant authorities in Finland, including the UN office on the same subject matter. Please we wouldn’t like to derail from our main object to avoid having problem with the police.
    We all know that WAR in Nigeria is a question of days now if nothing urgently is done to avert it, so mixing it with fuel subsidy will neutralize our objective.As I write this, killing is on going house to house in some Northern states, and our President from his statement is helpless in finding solution to it hence we want to urge the international Communities to intervene. It is only when people are alive that they can buy fuel.
    Finally, we have enough placards and banners for the demonstration, so people should not worry about bringing any
   The time remains 14:30. but we are expected to come earlier because the police gave us only 1hr to match from Kaisaniemi park through Sokos/Manerhemintie to the Parliament house.

   Kindly extend this information to as many as possible !
 Best Regards.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Is Finland merely preparing students – for free – in order for them to benefit other countries and economies?

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Read Time:11 Minute, 29 Second
With the Minister of Education recently stating that Finland needs the number of foreign students here to increase in future, just how will an already difficult job market cater to this influx of international resources?
Regularly appearing at the top of various polls, the Finnish education system has acquired an international reputation for its high level of quality. Thus, among the higher education student body today, currently there are some 15,700 foreign students enrolled here in Finland, divided almost equally between university and polytechnic institutions.
However, this number makes up a mere 4 per cent of the student body nationwide – far behind such countries as the UK, which sees more than 20 per cent of their students coming from abroad. More startlingly, according to recent figures, 70 per cent of all non-Finnish graduates are leaving the country upon the completion of their degree, which begs the question: is Finland merely preparing students – for free – in order for them to benefit other countries and economies?
Study plan
The Minister of Education Jukka Gustafsson recently declared that Finland needs more foreign students in future in order to ensure that the high quality of education here is sustained. Seeking an increase to 20,000 international students by 2015, the overwhelming fact still remains that the majority of students will inevitably take their skills elsewhere upon graduation unless steps are taken to stem the flow.
“I very much want to stay in Finland,” explains Chris Pape-Mustonen, a PhD post-graduate, originally from the United Kingdom. “I have a wife and family, I enjoy the culture and have developed a life for myself here. I am, however, conscious of the possibility of leaving, and this is based almost solely on the difficulty of finding work. If I am unable to find meaningful employment here, I will be forced to consider leaving.”
What is abundantly clear for foreign students here is that networking is a very important tool for obtaining employment in their chosen fields. Although companies regularly plunder both undergraduate and postgraduate students even before they graduate, international students can still find it difficult to establish contacts in their particular industry.
“A lack of networks can be a barrier to finding entry level work,” offers Pape-Mustonen. “[When studying] there was one short course on job seeking, which dealt with many general issues about looking for work, and in which the larger scale problems related to foreigners were raised but, understandably, not tackled in any meaningful way.  The issue of networking is certainly something you are warned about, and indeed it seems like an issue that a foreign student can effectively tackle.  However, those foreign students who do have problems establishing a network can be at a serious disadvantage to Finns who are born with such an advantage.”

http://www.sixdegrees.fi/6d/templates/rt_mediamogul_j15/images/quote-start.png); background-origin: initial; background-position: 0px 0px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; color: #666666; font-size: 16px; font-style: italic; line-height: 24px; margin-bottom: 15px; margin-left: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-top: 15px; padding-bottom: 5px; padding-left: 60px; padding-right: 0px; padding-top: 0px; width: auto;”>

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for international
students to find
employment
is the lack of
networks.”
Help is not necessarily at hand
Though, according to American-born professor at the University of Helsinki, Paul Ilsley, the major problem preceding the fact that international students are leaving is that many of them do not graduate in the first place. A much higher percentage of international students drop out of their courses than native students, and this is in part due to the poor care and attention they receive – or rather don’t – from their faculty.
Indeed, some students have been known to wait up to two years before seeing an adviser, something that shocks Ilsley. “Moral indignation does not even begin to sum up this situation,” he says. “I have known colleagues joke about this situation and they do nothing to help the international students; it is systematic social inequality and accentuates the spectre of Finnishness for the sake of Finnishness.”
According to Ilsley, Finland needs foreigners, as they can benefit the country as a whole and more should be done to keep them here. If they are given the opportunities – firstly in networking and then in gainful employment – then they in turn will be able to provide networking assistance to the next generation, and so the situation improves.
However, Ilsley believes that this again links back to the attitude of the academic staff, who adopt the stance of “How will this benefit me?” The simple answer in this case would seem to be that they can benefit from having more people graduate, which in turns allows them more funding and further enhances their reputation both here and abroad.
With recent talk concerning the introduction of tuition fees that would apply to foreigners, but not to Finnish students, it remains to be seen how this will affect the internationalisation of education in future. It must be pointed out that the individual departments cannot simply charge fees as they wish, but they can apply to the central administration of their university to charge only international students – there is no course of action for charging Finnish students: it simply cannot be done. This fills Ilsley with dismay. “Not only is this crazy, it is discriminatory. This is an anti-pedagogical practice – the students are being targeted, and they know it.”
Graduation by numbers
• 4% of the student body here in Finland is international, or
some 15,700 students, about half of whom are in universities,
and half at polytechnics.
• 1,200 of 29,100 university degrees in 2010 were awarded to
foreign citizens.
• Foreign students here are made up of over 100 nationalities,
with the largest single group being from China.
• 70% of international students in Finland move abroad after
graduation.
Opportunities in language
Furthermore, perhaps the most pressing issue that is responsible for driving students abroad upon graduation is a very obvious and contentious one: puhutko suomea?
“The complaint is that international students do not learn Finnish, but the reality is that the chances of them doing so are remote,” explains Ilsley. “In my experience, there is only one class available. This is very poor. Furthermore, it is a vicious circle: the belief amongst the academic staff is that if they can’t help themselves then why should we help them? Only if they learn Finnish can they then help themselves, but there is no desire to offer them that chance.”
“There were Finnish lessons at my university, which students should work hard at, however your Finnish is unlikely to be job-ready upon graduation,” Pape-Mustonen recalls.
While the difficulty of learning the local language has been previously well documented, there are still examples of foreigners successfully working here who have been able to learn to speak Finnish during their studies.
“I put a big effort into learning the language,” explains former student Érico Melo, originally from Portugal. “My girlfriend’s family always encouraged me to learn Finnish, emphasising that the language is really important, and that you have to learn Finnish to be successful in working life.
Now fluent in Finnish, Melo graduated from his studies in Gerontology three years ago and currently works as a supervisor in a supported residential facility for the elderly. Although he himself is now comfortably placed within the work force here, he acknowledges that a change of attitude is needed for employers here to truly embrace foreign workers, even when they possess adequate Finnish skills.
“It is always in the news that we need people to take care of our old people, this area needs more educated people and so on. It’s ridiculous, as I know that there are people living here who don’t have a job and have studied in this area, but can’t get work because they are foreigners.”
Adding to his bewilderment is the fact that Melo’s current foreign work colleagues are regularly praised for the different approach that they have towards their work.
“People have some misconceptions, thinking that foreigners will not show up for work on time and so on. And then they start realising that these people are actually responsible, and that people from Africa, for example, show more respect for the elderly people, honouring them; they see the older people as still being very important people. On the other hand perhaps the youngsters here don’t respect old people as much. Many of my Finnish colleagues actually feel that it’s really good to have foreigners working here; they really care for the clients.”
Melo believes, however, that Finland is just beginning to wake up to the possibilities of foreign workers, and the fact that these culturally different approaches to work can have very positive consequences.
“What I have seen in working life is that people are becoming more international here,” he observes. “Of course you see Timo Soini and that not everywhere are people so accepting of foreigners, but in general people’s attitudes are changing and they are becoming more accepting.”
Leading light
Along with the recent announcement of the intended internationalisation of higher education here, there is increasingly more work being done creating a smoother road towards employment for foreign graduates. Commencing in 2009, VALOA is a national project co-ordinated by the University of Helsinki’s Career Services, which is collaborating with 16 universities and universities of applied sciences to enhance the employability of international students. Working with both university staff and employers, the project seeks to illuminate this growing problem of graduates leaving the country by assisting educational facilities with readying students for working life here, while also trying to provide employers with information about how to employ international students and raise the awareness of the international student body in Finland.
“Employers are so unaware that we have such a huge academic talent here in Finland,” explains Heidi Layne, Specialist in Career Guidance and Training at VALOA. “The main challenge for international students to find employment is the lack of networks. They don’t have enough understanding as to where to look for jobs, and the opportunities available to them. Of course the language does play a role, but the employers we have talked with have started to think about the language requirements by position – there are a lot of places where you don’t actually need to know much Finnish. There is this turning point right now.”
So, as attitudes swing gradually more in the favour of the international graduate-cum-jobseeker here in future, will the forecasted saturation of the job market cope, and how will the local culture change in time to accommodate this growing demand?
“Currently the internationalisation here has been that Finnish people go abroad, so a lot of people think, ‘we are so international because all these Finnish people have been here, there and everywhere’, but actually we still cannot see the cultural capital of those people that move here from somewhere else. We should stop and see how we can utilise these young people who graduate. It’s not only the international students but it is all over Finland with recent graduates and internships.”
Layne believes that one significant factor lacking in Finland that would aid the plight of the foreign graduate is collaboration between the different ministries, educational institutions and the Chamber of Commerce, along with the City of Helsinki and non-profit organisations. “There are a lot of people who have a lot of resources, knowledge and the willingness to work on this. The first thing is to collaborate. Big companies, the small and medium sized companies, if they would see the benefits and resources of international graduates it would boost their own economies. What is very positive now is that there is a true interest. The discussion is moving from just talking and writing about it to actually thinking what would be the model that could be created here.”
Furthermore, being married to a foreigner herself has allowed Layne a first-hand look at the difficulties in obtaining employment for foreigners here, informing the decision that she and her family made recently to act as a “friend family” for a German exchange student, a programme that seeks to create a warmer and more inviting environment for international students while studying here.
In fact, having just completed an interview with MTV3 earlier in the day regarding the friend family initiative, it appears as though the issue of creating a more welcoming environment for international students is beginning to gather prominence in the public’s awareness.
“All of these things support integration during their studies, and support whether the student wishes to stay in Finland. “If I were to think how I would like Finnish society to be I would love it to be more mixed. The more we have people, the more we have ideas and innovations.”

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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16 surprising facts about Finland’s unorthodox education system

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Read Time:1 Minute, 36 Second

SINCE IT implemented huge education reforms 40 years ago, Finland’s school system has consistently come at the top of international rankings for education systems.

So how do they do it?
It’s simple — by going against the evaluation-driven, centralised model that much of the Western world uses.
1. Finnish children don’t start school until they are 7.
2. They rarely take exams or do homework until they are well into their teens. The children are not measured at all for the first six years of their education.
3. There is only one mandatory standardised test in Finland, taken when children are 16.
4. Finland spends around 30% less per student than the US. All children, regardless of ability, are taught in the same classrooms.
5. 30% of children receive extra help during their first nine years of school.
6. 66% per cent of students go to college.
7. The difference between the weakest and strongest students is the smallest in the world.
8. 93% of Finns graduate from high school.
9. 43% of Finnish second-level students go to vocational schools.
10. Teachers only spend four hours a day in the classroom, and take two hours a week for ‘professional development’.
11. The school system is 100% state funded.
12. The national curriculum is only a broad guideline.
13. All teachers in Finland must have a master’s degree, which is fully subsidised.
14. Teachers are selected from the top 10% of graduates and their average starting salary in 2008 was $22,235. Last year, 6,600 applicants vied for 660 primary school training positions.
15. High school teachers with 15 years of experience earn 102% more than other college graduates.
16. In an international standardised measurement in 2001, Finnish children came top or very close to the top for science, reading and maths…”
THEJOURNAL.IE 16 December
LEHTIKUVA – MARKKU ULANDER

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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New year shocker from Finland

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Read Time:1 Minute, 36 Second

 Finland, a country known for highly rated free tuition tertiary educational system, located in Northern Europe, may have taken stricter measures for prospective Nigerian students vying for admission into their universities. 

Hundreds of young Nigerians gain admission to Finland annually to further their university education. Education in Finland is goverment sponsored and therefore free to  Non -EU or third country nationals.

Information reaching  us indicates that the Finnish network for International programmes steering committee, the body responsible for international programmes administration may have decided to exclude Nigerians from writing the annual entrance examination in neighboring Accra,Ghana for the next academic session 2012/2013.

Instead Nigerian applicants will have to travel to Finland to write a one day entrance examination. Nigerian applicants will have to  go through a stressful process of securing a visit visa  first to Finland, just for the sole purpose of writing few hours entrance Examination while other African applicants will write the entrance examination in  Africa. 

Nigerian applicants that eventually fail the entrance examination would incure  financial losses in travel costs.

There were rumours that  advance fee fraud, corruption and documents falsification associated with Nigerians abroad might have been the major reason.

A source   from FINNIPS said: “ The entrance examination locations and the countries from where the eligible applicants will be invited to participate in the exam, are decided separately for each year. The situation will be re-evaluated for the 2013 application period”.

Efforts to contact Nigerian organisations in Finland  have started yielding  results. The Nigerian ambassador should be  willing to take up issues that relate to the welfare of Nigeria. Some concerned Nigerians are of the opinion that we need some sort of  concerted voice to intellectually engage the authorities to back pedal on this decision. 

• Olalekan Oladepo Smart 

Lappeenranta

University of Technology, Finland.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Human remains found on UK queen’s estate

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Read Time:1 Minute, 12 Second

Human remains have been discovered on Sandringham estate, a vast area in rural Norfolk where the royal family retreats for the holiday season, local police announced Monday.

A terse statement posted to the website of the Norfolk Constabulary said that a member of the public found the remains on New Year’s Day in an area of woodland at Anmer, a tiny village about 115 miles (185 kilometers) northeast of London. The hamlet is home to several dozen people and sits around three miles (4.8 kilometers) from Sandringham House, the 19th property at center of several thousand acres of gardens, mudflats, woods, and farmland.

Police Sgt. Andrew Terry said he didn’t know whether the remains were found on the site of Sandringham, but Britain’s Press Association news agency identified Anmer as being part of the royal estate. No indication of the age or nature of the remains was given, and Terry said no further information would be released until Tuesday.

Sandringham has served as a private residence for British monarchs since 1862, and queen Elizabeth II traditionally retreats there with her family during the holiday season.

The estate’s website says that half of the royal residence is rented out to agricultural tenants. There are also two stud farms, a fruit farm and a country park which, together with the estate’s gardens, employ over 100 full-time staff.

Buckingham Palace referred questions about the find back to police.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success

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Read Time:11 Minute, 15 Second

The Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence. Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West’s reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.

The small Nordic country of Finland used to be known — if it was known for anything at all — as the home of Nokia, the mobile phone giant. But lately Finland has been attracting attention on global surveys of quality of life — Newsweek ranked it number one last year — and Finland’s national education system has been receiving particular praise, because in recent years Finnish students have been turning in some of the highest test scores in the world.

Finland’s schools owe their newfound fame primarily to one study: the PISA survey, conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The survey compares 15-year-olds in different countries in reading, math, and science. Finland has ranked at or near the top in all three competencies on every survey since 2000, neck and neck with superachievers such as South Korea and Singapore. In the most recent survey in 2009 Finland slipped slightly, with students in Shanghai, China, taking the best scores, but the Finns are still near the very top. Throughout the same period, the PISA performance of the United States has been middling, at best.

Compared with the stereotype of the East Asian model — long hours of exhaustive cramming and rote memorization — Finland’s success is especially intriguing because Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play. All this has led to a continuous stream of foreign delegations making the pilgrimage to Finland to visit schools and talk with the nation’s education experts, and constant coverage in the worldwide media marveling at the Finnish miracle.

So there was considerable interest in a recent visit to the U.S. by one of the leading Finnish authorities on education reform, Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education’s Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Earlier this month, Sahlberg stopped by the Dwight School in New York City to speak with educators and students, and his visit received national media attention and generated much discussion.

And yet it wasn’t clear that Sahlberg’s message was actually getting through. As Sahlberg put it to me later, there are certain things nobody in America really wants to talk about.

* * *

During the afternoon that Sahlberg spent at the Dwight School, a photographer from the New York Times jockeyed for position with Dan Rather’s TV crew as Sahlberg participated in a roundtable chat with students. The subsequent article in the Times about the event would focus on Finland as an “intriguing school-reform model.”

Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. “Oh,” he mentioned at one point, “and there are no private schools in Finland.”

This notion may seem difficult for an American to digest, but it’s true. Only a small number of independent schools exist in Finland, and even they are all publicly financed. None is allowed to charge tuition fees. There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D.

The irony of Sahlberg’s making this comment during a talk at the Dwight School seemed obvious. Like many of America’s best schools, Dwight is a private institution that costs high-school students upward of $35,000 a year to attend — not to mention that Dwight, in particular, is run for profit, an increasing trend in the U.S. Yet no one in the room commented on Sahlberg’s statement. I found this surprising. Sahlberg himself did not.

Sahlberg knows what Americans like to talk about when it comes to education, because he’s become their go-to guy in Finland. The son of two teachers, he grew up in a Finnish school. He taught mathematics and physics in a junior high school in Helsinki, worked his way through a variety of positions in the Finnish Ministry of Education, and spent years as an education expert at the OECD, the World Bank, and other international organizations.

Now, in addition to his other duties, Sahlberg hosts about a hundred visits a year by foreign educators, including many Americans, who want to know the secret of Finland’s success. Sahlberg’s new book is partly an attempt to help answer the questions he always gets asked.

From his point of view, Americans are consistently obsessed with certain questions: How can you keep track of students’ performance if you don’t test them constantly? How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers? How do you foster competition and engage the private sector? How do you provide school choice?

The answers Finland provides seem to run counter to just about everything America’s school reformers are trying to do.

For starters, Finland has no standardized tests. The only exception is what’s called the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school, roughly the equivalent of American high school.

Instead, the public school system’s teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves. All children receive a report card at the end of each semester, but these reports are based on individualized grading by each teacher. Periodically, the Ministry of Education tracks national progress by testing a few sample groups across a range of different schools.

As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. “There’s no word for accountability in Finnish,” he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”

For Sahlberg what matters is that in Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. A master’s degree is required to enter the profession, and teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country. If a teacher is bad, it is the principal’s responsibility to notice and deal with it.

And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Puronen: “Real winners do not compete.” It’s hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland’s success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.

Finally, in Finland, school choice is noticeably not a priority, nor is engaging the private sector at all. Which brings us back to the silence after Sahlberg’s comment at the Dwight School that schools like Dwight don’t exist in Finland.

“Here in America,” Sahlberg said at the Teachers College, “parents can choose to take their kids to private schools. It’s the same idea of a marketplace that applies to, say, shops. Schools are a shop and parents can buy what ever they want. In Finland parents can also choose. But the options are all the same.”

Herein lay the real shocker. As Sahlberg continued, his core message emerged, whether or not anyone in his American audience heard it.

Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.

* * *

Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.

In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.

In fact, since academic excellence wasn’t a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland’s students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland — unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway — was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.

That this point is almost always ignored or brushed aside in the U.S. seems especially poignant at the moment, after the financial crisis and Occupy Wall Street movement have brought the problems of inequality in America into such sharp focus. The chasm between those who can afford $35,000 in tuition per child per year — or even just the price of a house in a good public school district — and the other “99 percent” is painfully plain to see.

* * *

Pasi Sahlberg goes out of his way to emphasize that his book Finnish Lessons is not meant as a how-to guide for fixing the education systems of other countries. All countries are different, and as many Americans point out, Finland is a small nation with a much more homogeneous population than the United States. 

Yet Sahlberg doesn’t think that questions of size or homogeneity should give Americans reason to dismiss the Finnish example. Finland is a relatively homogeneous country — as of 2010, just 4.6 percent of Finnish residents had been born in another country, compared with 12.7 percent in the United States. But the number of foreign-born residents in Finland doubled during the decade leading up to 2010, and the country didn’t lose its edge in education. Immigrants tended to concentrate in certain areas, causing some schools to become much more mixed than others, yet there has not been much change in the remarkable lack of variation between Finnish schools in the PISA surveys across the same period.

Samuel Abrams, a visiting scholar at Columbia University’s Teachers College, has addressed the effects of size and homogeneity on a nation’s education performance by comparing Finland with another Nordic country: Norway. Like Finland, Norway is small and not especially diverse overall, but unlike Finland it has taken an approach to education that is more American than Finnish. The result? Mediocre performance in the PISA survey. Educational policy, Abrams suggests, is probably more important to the success of a country’s school system than the nation’s size or ethnic makeup.

Indeed, Finland’s population of 5.4 million can be compared to many an American state — after all, most American education is managed at the state level. According to the Migration Policy Institute, a research organization in Washington, there were 18 states in the U.S. in 2010 with an identical or significantly smaller percentage of foreign-born residents than Finland.

What’s more, despite their many differences, Finland and the U.S. have an educational goal in common. When Finnish policymakers decided to reform the country’s education system in the 1970s, they did so because they realized that to be competitive, Finland couldn’t rely on manufacturing or its scant natural resources and instead had to invest in a knowledge-based economy. 

With America’s manufacturing industries now in decline, the goal of educational policy in the U.S. — as articulated by most everyone from President Obama on down — is to preserve American competitiveness by doing the same thing. Finland’s experience suggests that to win at that game, a country has to prepare not just some of its population well, but all of its population well, for the new economy. To possess some of the best schools in the world might still not be good enough if there are children being left behind.

Is that an impossible goal? Sahlberg says that while his book isn’t meant to be a how-to manual, it is meant to be a “pamphlet of hope.”

“When President Kennedy was making his appeal for advancing American science and technology by putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s, many said it couldn’t be done,” Sahlberg said during his visit to New York. “But he had a dream. Just like Martin Luther King a few years later had a dream. Those dreams came true. Finland’s dream was that we want to have a good public education for every child regardless of where they go to school or what kind of families they come from, and many even in Finland said it couldn’t be done.”

Clearly, many were wrong. It is possible to create equality. And perhaps even more important — as a challenge to the American way of thinking about education reform — Finland’s experience shows that it is possible to achieve excellence by focusing not on competition, but on cooperation, and not on choice, but on equity.

The problem facing education in America isn’t the ethnic diversity of the population but the economic inequality of society, and this is precisely the problem that Finnish education reform addressed. More equity at home might just be what America needs to be more competitive abroad.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Finland launches probe into China-bound Patriot missiles

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Finland has launched a probe after 69 surface-to-air Patriot missiles were found in a ship bound for the Chinese port city of Shanghai, police said.

“An investigation found 69 Patriot missiles, explosive material and propelling charges,” a police statement said.

The missiles, produced by US firm Raytheon, were discovered following a customs search on the British-registered Thor Liberty, owned by Danish firm Thorco, at the port of Kotka, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) from Helsinki.

Finnish customs are investigating the case as one of illegal export of defence material.

“There are grounds for customs to open an investigation into crime concerning the export of these items to third countries,” head of Finnish customs anti-crime unit Petri Lounatmaa told AFP.

Finnish law requires permission from defence officials to move such material across the country’s borders.

Lounatmaa noted that Finnish police, who are part of the investigating team, will investigate any other possible misconduct in the case.

A team of customs, police and defence force experts conducted a detailed probe of the ship’s cargo Wednesday when routine checks by Finland’s traffic safety authority revealed a load of 150 tons of improperly packed nitroguanidine — a low-sensitivity explosive with a high detonation speed.

Following the discovery, police and customs are now conducting further investigations to determine the reason for the military cache.

“We have started questioning the crew…As the investigation continues decisions will be made about possible arrests,” Lounatmaa explained.

The customs official said that there were roughly 32 crew members on board the vessel, and that questioning could continue into Friday.

Thorco managing director Thomas Mikkelsen expressed surprise, telling AFP from Denmark that he was unaware of the case.

Another company official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the ship had been detained in Finland and said the missiles could have been loaded on to the vessel by mistake.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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British women sue over French breast implants

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More than 250 British women are taking court action after more than half experienced ruptures in breast implants made by a French company at the centre of a cancer scare, a lawyer said Wednesday.

The women are among up to 50,000 in Britain who have had implants that were manufactured by the now-bankrupt Poly Implant Prothese (PIP).

Health officials in France have said the government plans to recommend to 30,000 French women with PIP implants that they have them removed, after eight cases of cancer, mainly breast cancer, were reported.

A lawyer representing more than 250 women in Britain said legal proceedings would start next year, with the complainants making claims against the clinics which carried out the operations to insert the implants.

“Over half of these women have suffered ruptured implants and we are also representing other women who are worried by the reports of problems and worried that their implants could rupture eventually,” lawyer Esyllt Hughes told AFP.

“We have issued some court proceedings and we expect them to begin in Cardiff next year.”

Documents obtained by AFP on Wednesday showed that tens of thousands of women in more than 65 countries, mainly in South America and western Europe, received implants produced by PIP, which ceased trading last year.

European authorities sought Wednesday to head off panic over the scare, saying there was no proof of a link to cancer.

France’s health ministry however has said there was no “urgent health risk” from the implants and no “causal link” with cancer has yet been proved.

An expert report will be released in France on Friday saying whether the implants should be removed.

PIP was shut down and its products banned last year after it was revealed to have been using non-authorised silicone gel that caused abnormally high rupture rates of its implants.

Facing financial difficulties, the company, once the world’s third-largest producer of silicone implants, replaced the medical-grade silicone in its implants with industrial-strength material.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in Britain urged patients not to panic, although it said they may want to consult their surgeons.

“We did extensive genotoxic and chemical tests and we could find no evidence of any safety aspect associated with this filler,” MHRA medical director Suzanne Ludgate told BBC radio.

“We have been working very closely with the professional bodies to look at the incidence of cancer associated with these breast implants and we’ve worked with the cancer registry and we can find no evidence for any association.”

In Germany, authorities said it was not known how many German women had received the implants and no recall was planned for the moment.

“We are waiting for the decision from French authorities, with whom we are in close contact,” a health ministry spokesman told AFP.

German authorities “had already in April warned women and doctors who used these products,” he said.

In Spain the health ministry said it was not recommending the implants be removed but was urging women who had received the implants to have them checked for ruptures.

It also could not say how many Spanish women had received the implants.

The documents seen by AFP also showed eastern European countries including Bulgaria, Russia and Poland accounted for 10 percent of PIP’s exports in 2009.

Prosecutors in Marseille, near the firm’s home base of Seyne-sur-Mer, have received more than 2,000 complaints from French women who received the implants and have opened a criminal investigation into the firm.

Yves Haddad, a lawyer for 72-year-old PIP founder Jean-Claude Mas, told AFP his client was prepared to face prosecution and denied the implants could be linked with health problems.

“For the moment there is no evidence that the product can cause illness,” the lawyer said.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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