By the time you read this, I'll have been in Finland for five days. It kind of feels longer. It's certainly been a packed few days so far!
One thing that has struck me about Finland is that, although the weather has so far been a bit like the UK, it seems an altogether very efficient place to live - at least, it is in Helsinki. The public transport is very reliable, so much so that one weekly ticket can get you on any train, tram, bus or underground ride. And no one checks that you even have a ticket - they just trust that you have. Which neatly brings me onto this very point. Trust.
Although my remit is to look at music education through singing (though it's more than this) and the effect that this has on the children here, one thing has struck me. All teachers in Finland, whatever they teach, are respected highly and are trusted to get on with their job. There are no inspections and so no teacher pressure. This lack of pressure then transfers down to the pupils: there's no testing here, no league tables or any regimented timetabling, which means the children learn freely. Music is seen as an important part of this. It certainly isn't marginalised or seen as an 'add-on', as it is in the UK.
Discussions with teachers and music education experts have been an inspiration and so refreshing. The system of 97 Finnish music schools, or 'institutes', is also fascinating. The short school day means that pupils are encouraged to take up hobbies like music and pursue this extension of their school day. School finishes at 1pm or 2pm, allowing time to build these pursuits into the schedule.
Before moving north to Jyvaskyla on 15th September, I'll be visiting some choirs and also ordinary primary music classes to see how they work. I can't wait to continue this journey!