Finnish boys lack good books

14th November 2003 at 00:00
I read with great interest your article on Finland (TES, October 3 2003) but feel I should draw your attention to a number of points.

Teaching in Finland is not recognised as having the high status that you suggest. Young men in particular are not coming into the profession.

Moreover, location is another factor as to whether there is "high status" recognition.

As teachers we acknowledge the finding that boys' reading is weaker than that of the girls but the same might be said of boys everywhere considering the differences in development between the two sexes.

However, there is nothing to suggest that boys remain weaker readers; it is simply that they are not necessarily as developed in those skills at the same time as girls. Our task perhaps is to provide suitable and interesting literature for boys of all ages.

When I suggest "suitable and interesting" I mean just that - what the boys themselves want! One only has to read the drivel sometimes dished out by, dare I say, "non-sexist" publishers to illustrate my point.

Ask the boys what they want to read and the results will be very different, I feel sure, from what teachers and parents offer. Children's "analytical skills and how to help them to formulate and justify opinions" are targets for us to adhere to and enhance.

You are right in suggesting that we do not have a "tradition of public debating" but it is difficult to change the long-standing cultural traditions of "this solitude-loving people".

To ask, even with tongue in cheek, whether the UK might become a Lutheran society is to suggest that we do not value the contribution made by the Orthodox or other groups in our country. Our ways are steeped in a long and often difficult history and I think it unwise to suggest that problems may be solved by "converting" to something that may have little or no relevance in another society or framework.

We are not a "socialist country" and because of our history we do not enjoy being referred to as one! We are a democratic and free-speaking nation with opportunities for all levels of society!

As a Finnish teacher, parent and Anglophile, I feel so strongly about the lack of good reading material for children, especially boys, that I have plans to combine forces with British colleagues to produce something myself. Hopefully it will be what children here in Finland and in the UK will enjoy.

Between us perhaps we can respond to Tomi Kontio's dream and share Finnish and English literature to enrich both cultures. Someone has to start somewhere!

Hanneli Merikallio-Soikkeli

Koivutie 5 A 5

42300 Jamsankoski, Finland

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