When we moved to South Africa we pretty much knew, the country isn’t going to adapt to us, we are the ones who need to change. When we moved back to Finland, we had changed, and knew we needed to revert closer to our already partly forgotten original mindset and culture.

To a degree I think we all have done relatively well. However, one thing that really bugs me is the Finnish

there is only one truth, and nothing but that only truth

-thinking, combined with the

one size fits all, and if it doesn’t, we’ll squeeze the unfitting until it fits



Talky used to have about 10 weekly hours of sports at school (PE and extra murals) in South Africa. With at least sort-of-professional coach. In Finland it’s two hours with the class teacher.

For an active child that is a killer. So Talky also does swimming, as well as track & field. Both costing somewhat of a fortune of euros. [I just paid €8, roughly R120, Talky to run a 60 meter race]. Taking all evenings and most of the weekends. And what do we get? More importantly, what does he get?

Yesterday I went to see Talky participate his first track & field games. It was an peaceful and quiet event, way better organised than the chaotic events in Cape Town. What really stroke me, was how the coach (a 20 something pleasant young woman) gently asked the boys to focus. No shouting. No yelling. No cheering. No team spirit. Once again I felt like poking the lifeless adults and kids alike. Hello, anybody alive there?

What comes to swimming, Talky has been training in Finland with one of the best squad swimming teams since August. It’s horrible to see, how his technique has deteriorated since he left Cape Town.

For someone who needs strict discipline in order to flourish, the whole sports thing is a big joke in Finland. And the sad part is, Talky has got the talent. Yet unless he gets proper training, he’s not going to go anywhere. Just going to get injured, as nobody corrects his technique(s), which at the moment hurts even to watch.

How do I miss Mr. Mitchell, the swimming coach from Kronendal. He made the boys behave. He made the boys repeat and repeat and repeat until they got their technique right. He yelled and shouted and screamed so that I could hear it to our flat, about 300 meters from the pool. Only after they had trained hard enough, it was time for free play. Still, all kids loved him. More importantly, the kids respected him.

No wonder in Finland we have to look back to 1976 (see the image above). With today’s “the main thing is they are having fun” approach 1976 is there to stay.


In a way this is similar to sports. Just potentially a lot more harmful. Not just at individual, but also at national level, I think.

For someone, who needs discipline and structure Finnish school is a nightmare. “It was so much easier at Kronendal and with Ms. Ricketts. You just didn’t talk in her class.” That someone couldn’t care less about houses of learning and colour-coding goals he is supposed to set on his own. I almost couldn’t help rolling my eyes when we went through Talky’s colour codes (that made absolutely no sense to me) during his mid-term parent-teacher-student meeting. Why the need to make simple things complicated?

Talky needs grades. Simple, self-explanatory grades. When he got a three in Afrikaans, we together set a goal to get a four next term. He got a five. When he got five in Maths, we together set a goal to get a six next term. He did it. He knew that for a better grade he needs to work harder. In Finland he is – we all are – all lost in the labyrinth of jargon.

My experience of the Finnish school is that it fits perfectly for a standard self-disciplined girl. Or boy. It’s a disaster-in-making for active discipline and boundary needy boys. Or girls.

Academically Finnish school is way ahead of South African. Talky’s reading test in Finland indicates he should be in grade 2. In South Africa he got sixes and sevens. [This, by the way, is one of the reasons we decided to move back to Finland. In our opinion he couldn’t read properly, yet it was hard to make him do extra reading as his grades were in no relation to his skills.]

What is common for the education system in both countries is that they’re failing the non-average ones. In South Africa this is done by lowering standards. [And then the politicians celebrate increasing pass rates, haha]. How does a 30 % pass rate sound to you? Would you hire someone who can 30 % read? In Finland it’s done by hiding behind fancy-sounding experimental concepts labelled as “advanced” or “digital”. As if the world isn’t complicated enough as it is.

Two times emperor’s new clothes?


Comments & questions