According to Matti Meri, professor at the department of teacher education in Helsinki, the admission tests for teacher studies are the most difficult exams in Finland. Teacher education, especially class teacher education, is one of the most desired study programs. Because of the large numbers of applicants for class teacher education only 10 – 15% highly motivated and talented applicants can be accepted (Niemi 2012:24).
The first step is to pass a national written exam called ‘Vakava’. The test is taken at the same time by all teacher candidates across the country. To prepare for the test, the candidates have access to the relevant literature approximately six weeks before the examination date. The test itself consists of multiple-choice questions about various scientific texts in the field of education. If the candidate has achieved enough points in the ‘Vakava’ test, he or she can go on with the second application step that is organized at each university. According to Meri the admission test on the local university level consists of three different phases: a book exam, an interview and a group session. In the book exam essential questions based on the admission literature should be answered. The responses are evaluated according to the following factors: the ability to receive information and process them critically, the ability to make a distinction between relevant and irrelevant information, and the ability to form syntheses. The tasks also leave room for creating own ideas, argumentation, and personal opinions. According to Meri the teacher’s core competences include a well-structured understanding of child development and learning and their guidance, skills to direct interaction, as well as the ability to create learning environments that raise questions.The aim of the test is to find out the motives for choosing to become a teacher as a profession. Besides, it should select those candidates that are interested in educational research as teacher education in Finland is strongly research-based.
Only 7% of applicants were accepted in Helsinki
In 2015 approximately 300 students have been selected through the joint-application process, coordinated by the University of Jyväskylä, to take part in the admission tests organised in Helsinki. However, only 7% of the applicants in Helsinki were accepted this year (University of Helsinki 2016). Currently, a few German universities have started to install aptitude tests for teacher candidates, however, these tests are mostly used as a consulting service on a voluntary basis. At the University of Passau for example, all new student teachers can take part in a one-day consultation process, similar to an ‘assessment center’.
The access to teacher training in Finland is quite atypical of the educational structures in Finland that are based on the principle of ‘Education for All’. In Finland, however, the selective structure of teacher training is considered by Finnish education experts as one of the main reasons for the successful performance of Finland in the PISA studies (Meri 2007; Sahlberg 2013).
Finnish National Board of Education (2016): Finnish education in a nuthsell. Helsinki: Finnish National Board of Education. Link: http://www.oph.fi/download/146428_Finnish_Education_in_a_Nutshell [12.09.2016].
Hakala, Juha (2008): Die Ausbildung der Klassenlehrer für die neunjährige Grundschule. In: Matthies/Skiera (Hrsg.).Studien zum Bildungswesen und Schulsystem in Finnland. Flensburg
Sahlberg, Pasi (2010): The Secret to Finland’s Success: Educating Teachers. September 2010. Stanford University. School of Education.
Sahlberg, Pasi (2013). Teachers as Leaders in Finland. In: Educational Leadership, Vol 71. S. 36-40.