Friday, March 14, 2014

Republic of Finland

The Republic of Finland is in northern Europe and borders Sweden, Norway and Russia.   It is often considered part of Scandinavia although it really is part of the Nordic region.  Suomi is the 8th largest country in Europe.  It's a little smaller than Montana and is home to around 5.5 million people (about the same as Atlanta).  Helsinki is the capital city.

Finland was a part of Sweden from the 12th to early 19th century.  After 1809, it became part of the Russian Empire until, the Bolshevik Revolution when, Finland declared independence in 1917. 

The Soviet Union wanted Finnish territory and the two countries fought in the Winter War of 1939 - 1940.  From 1941 - 1944, Finland fought alongside Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union.  Following an armistice agreement with the Allies, Finland pushed the Nazis out of Finland from 1944 - 1945.  In order to maintain independence the country was forced to give up 10% of its territory and pay huge war reparations to the Soviet Union.

Today, Finland has one of the highest per capita incomes in Europe.  It joined the EU in 1995 and is a member of Schengen and the Eurozone.

The two official languages are Finnish and Swedish although only about 5.5% actually speak Swedish.  The Finnish language is only distantly related to Hungarian and Estonian.  The grammar is beyond belief.  I can barely handle Czech's 7 cases.  Finnish has 15 grammatical cases.  Oh hell no! 

The Åland Islands are a part of Finland but are an autonomous, demilitarized zone.  By law, the islands are exclusively Swedish-speaking.

Finland has an extensive social welfare system and it shows in its educational system.  Every teacher in Finland is required to hold at least a master's degree and teachers are given the same respect as doctors and lawyers.  Only 10% of applicants are accepted to teacher training programs.

Children start kindergarten at 6 and begin the first grade at 7.  Teachers only spend around 4 or 5 hours in the classroom per day.  There is almost no homework or exams.  There is one mandatory standardized test at 16.  The first real test students have to deal with is the university entry exam.  Despite all of this, Finnish students score among the best in the world in math, science and reading.  Here's a video I found on YouTube that talks about Finland's exceptional system of education.

I guess things are good between Finland and Czechland.  On February 11th, an honorary Finnish consulate opened in Brno and in the Spring another honorary consulate will open in Ostrava.

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