Discontent teachers protesting in Helsinki

The image of the Finnish schools suffers a crack, as teachers take to the street in support of fired colleague.

By Morten Refsgaard

Marko Spyttä, one of teachers showing support for their fired colleague. Photo: Morten Refsgaard

Marko Spyttä, one of the teachers showing support for their fired colleague. Photo: Morten Refsgaard

Helsinki, Finland: When Antti Korhonen, a middle school teacher in Helsinki, physically removed a disturbing pupil from the school cafeteria, he set in motion a chain of events, he hardly could have foreseen.

First, he was fired for endangering the pupil’s right to a safe working environment. This sparked a discussion about teacher’s rights in Finland, and today, teachers rallied in support of their colleague.

– I sympathise with the teacher. There is far too little discussion about the conditions in high schools, says Marko Skyttä, himself a teacher in a secondary school for visual arts.

Brewing concern among teachers
Jouko Saaringen, a teacher for 10 years in Helsinki, thinks the incident is just the spark that lit the fire. The discontent has been growing among the teachers for years.

Teachers Jouko Saarinen and Lotta Hartikainen protesting for better working conditions. Photo: Morten Refsgaard

Teachers Jouko Saarinen and Lotta Hartikainen protesting for better working conditions. Photo: Morten Refsgaard

– People are worried about what is happening in the schools. The kids in the schools have a lot of freedom, but there is no responsibility. We would like those two things to get in balance, he says.

With Finland consistently scoring high in the PISA-surveys, bad conditions for teachers might be news for the outside world, but not for those in the midst of it:

– You could say that this is the price we are paying for the PISA results, Jouko Saaringen says.