Secondary Maths – The Human Factor

A deputy head teacher visits Finland to learn teaching methods A steady flow of teachers have landed in Finland to try to discover why the country has scored so well in the international OECD PISA assessments. One of them is Nigel Bispham, a deputy head teacher from Cornwall.

He visits Jukka Sinivirta’s class at Martinlaakso Lower Secondary School on the edge of Helsinki. Jukka is teaching equations. After the lesson Jukka talks to Nigel about the deep respect he has for his pupils. At the start of the lesson Jukka bows to his class. Nigel wants to know why; Jukka explains he’s showing respect to the future of Finland.
Jukka’s lesson is in Finnish, but despite this Nigel could see how Jukka’s concern for his pupils shone through. ‘The human factor is the thing that’s overwhelmed me,’ says Nigel.

Jukka teaches a class of 22 pupils, and says his methods would work better if the class was smaller. ‘How would you feel about teaching a mixed class of 30 or 35 pupils?’ asked Nigel, ‘Would you carry on teaching?’ ‘Possibly not,’ admits Jukka.

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