Salpaus Further Education is putting even more emphasis on students’ personal competence development plans (PCDP), making sure that they fulfil all the requirements. Students’ PCDP are in a key role in the Finnish vocational education system.
Finland was the first Nordic country to introduce a comprehensive national approach to validation through its competence-based system for vocational education and training. As part of a lifelong learning strategy, non-formal learning was integrated to formal education and training.
In Salpaus Further Education we have nine mentoring teachers. Their tasks include, in addition to teaching related tasks, to guide and help all the other teachers within Salpaus to ensure the quality and documentation of students’ PCDP. These mentoring teachers work in different study fields throughout Salpaus. All staff of Salpaus may contact them if they have questions or hesitations, for example, about accepting competence acquired outside formal education. The students may have obtained relevant skills from working life, another school, international study, work placement periods or family and leisure activities. Previous learning that is related to the qualification is recognised and only the missing skills are necessary to acquire.
The Personal Competence Development Plan has been part of education for many years but in 2018 it was emphasised even more than before due to the merger of adult and youth vocational education. The PCDP is a strategic educational plan drawn from the organization viewpoint. From the student viewpoint it is a personal list of goals to achieve and the education path to attain them. A teacher or a guidance counsellor is responsible for creating this document together with the student and, when applicable, representatives of working life. The plan maps-out and recognises the skills the student has previously acquired and outlines what kind of competences the student needs and how they can acquire them in different learning environments. The plan also includes information on the necessary supportive measures. This helps the students develop a strong ownership of their own study plan as well as commitment to the educational process.
Teachers at all levels of education expect that they will be given the full range of professional autonomy they need to practice what they have been trained to do: to plan, teach, diagnose, execute, and evaluate. In Finland, teachers in general spend less time teaching than their peers in many other countries do. (Sahlberg 2015, 103-104 & 119.) It is easier for the teachers to receive help from the co-workers, such as a mentoring teacher, than receive direct feedback from an administrative staff or external organisation.
We started to use mentoring teachers and the above mentioned process as part of a project which is funded by strategic funding from Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. Its purpose is to develop vocational education and training in line with objectives that are important for education policy.
Sahlberg, Pasi 2015. Finnish Lessons. 2.0. What can the world learn from educational change in Finland? Second Edition. New York and London: Teachers College Press, http://www.submeet.eu/european_library/Finnish_lessons.pdf, 20.3.2020.