Writing skills of Finnish schoolboys alarmingly weak
Sharp differences between schools
Finnish schoolchildren have won praise around the world as some of the world’s best readers, according to the results of PISA studies. However, an assessment by the National Board of Education suggests that their writing skills in the mother tongue (either Finnish or Swedish) leave something to be desired. There is considerable variation from one school to another, and especially boys tend to be underachievers.
A test conducted in connection with the assessment suggests that boys also often get higher grades than their actual skills would seem to merit.
The study also found that the opinions that the pupils have of the usefulness of the subject in everyday life, future studies, and their future life, are more negative than they were five years ago.
The assessment was conducted in October last year, and involved 6,000 pupils from 130 comprehensive schools around Finland, who had just started the seventh grade.
Tests involving reading, literature, and reading comprehension went better than those involving writing.
Girls tended to be good in their use of the mother tongue, while boys were of at an average level.
More than 40 per cent got a good or excellent score in overall language skills, while just ten per cent were ranked as poor.
The proportion of those who did poorly in writing was as high as a third. Difficulties were experienced in matters such as compound words, punctuation, and capitalisation. For instance, one in four had written the Finnish word for Egypt with a small letter.
On the basis of the previous year’s report cards, 75 per cent of the pupils had been ranked as good or better. The average grade for the mother tongue and literature was eight (on the Finnish grading scale, where 10 is excellent, and 4 comprises a failure), and 90 per cent received either a 7, 8, or 9.
Many of the pupils who had a fair or good grade did poorly in the test.
More than 60 per cent of the girls responding to the survey said that they like to study the mother tongue, while just over a third of boys felt the same way. A similar gender difference existed in opinions on how interesting the assignments were.
On the basis of the findings, the researchers are urging schools to come up with more interesting exercises in the mother tongue. In addition to stories, there should be more practice involving Internet chats, for instance.
Skills in the mother tongue do not vary much from one part of the country to another, but there are considerable contrasts between individual schools, especially in writing skills.
The average scores for the tests varied between 40 and 75 per cent from the maximum scores.
In the writing assignments, the differences between schools were greatest, with the average varying between 21 and 74 per cent from the maximum.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finland breaks point record in PISA study (5.12.2007)