Changes in Teacher Profession in Finland during the War Years 1939-1945

By Uusiautti, Satu; Paksuniemi, Merja et al. | Review of European Studies, March 2013 | Go to article overview

Changes in Teacher Profession in Finland during the War Years 1939-1945


Uusiautti, Satu, Paksuniemi, Merja, Määttä, Kaarina, Review of European Studies


Abstract

What happened in the Finnish society affected Finnish teacher training significantly. Teacher training was seen as the means and channel of influencing the whole nation. This study makes an interesting example of how macro level processes and procedures influence on a singular profession and how it was performed in practice. Simultaneously, it functions as an example of a national importance of professions. This study focused on teacher training during the war years in Finland and the change that took place in teacher training and consequently in teacher profession. This was a historical research aiming at drawing as a picture of the contemporary reality in the light of various data: archival sources and former student teachers' (N=9) interviews and memoirs who were student teachers of the teacher training college of Tornio during the Second World War. As results, a practical description of the change is described and discussed. What makes teachers' profession interesting, is that teachers were seen the professional educators of the whole nation, the future workforce, and by setting the example, they educated families, too. How the national purposes influenced teacher training and the contents of teachers' professionalism are discussed.

Keywords: Finland, patriotism, teacher training, teacher's profession, Second World War, education

1. Introduction

Since the establishment of teacher training colleges starting from the 1860s, Finnish teacher training was considered the seedbed for Christian-nationalist education. It would continue the ideology of Herbart-Zillerism adopted from Germany by Uno Cygnaeus, the father of Finnish elementary education (Cygnaeus, 1910; Halila, 1949; Herbart, 1806; Ziller, 1857; Ziller, 1876). Teachers' were considered exemplary people for the whole nation and therefore their work was not just seen something one does but adopting certain kind of a role and identity (see Rousmaniere, 1994; Sumara & Luce-Kapler, 1996). The Finnish teacher training colleges were based on the educational trend of Herbart-Zillerism that emphasized the teacher's moral-Christian character and being (Halila, 1949; Heikkinen, 1995; Hyyrö 2006; Isosaari, 1961; Kuikka, 1978; Nurmi, 1964, 1979, 1995). This was the socio-cultural, historical, and institutional context that constructed teachers' professional identity (see also Korthagen, 2004; Zembylas, 2003) at the beginning of the Finnish teacher training.

In practice, teachers' suitability to act as model citizens was carefully assessed already in the student selection (Paksuniemi & Määttä, 2011a). Strict entrance tests started from sending written applications to the college teaching staff. A carefully-selected group of applicants were invited to the second step where the best applicants based on the minister's and doctor's statements were selected for the actual entrance test. In the last phase of student selection applicants had to show their skills in different school subjects and they were interviewed by teacher educators. Usually, the elementary school teacher training lasted for two years. Teacher students studied the didactics and pedagogy, regionalism, math, and health education, and arts including playing and singing, handicrafts, gymnastics, games and sports. Teaching practicums lasted about 2-3 weeks at a time and took place in the spring semester of the second study year. Teaching practicum was an important phase of studies (Paksuniemi, 2009; Paksuniemi & Määttä, 2011b).

What happened in the Finnish society affected Finnish teacher training significantly. Finland had gained independency in 1917. During the Second World War, Finland fought twice against the Soviet Union but remained an independent democracy in Western Europe (Anttonen, 1998; Satka, 1995). Teacher training was seen as the means and channel of influencing the whole nation. Therefore, this study makes an interesting example of how macro level processes and procedures influence on a singular profession and how it is performed in practice (e. …

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