The future of multicultural teaching looks bright thanks to the Kuulumisia project

A new study reveals the effectiveness of teacher qualification training for people with immigrant backgrounds

Teacher trainees on the Kuulumisia project participate in a music class. Photo: Jonne Renvall

Teacher trainees on the Kuulumisia project participate in a music class. Photo: Jonne Renvall

Jaakko Vuorio regards the Kuulumisia project as a valuable asset for both the trainees and Finnish schools. Photo: Jonne Renvall

Jaakko Vuorio regards the Kuulumisia project as a valuable asset for both the trainees and Finnish schools. Photo: Jonne Renvall

Kuulumisia training for qualified and trainee teachers with immigrant backgrounds benefits its participants in an ideal way: it improves their employment opportunities.

Kuulumisia training is a special programme for teachers and would-be teachers with immigrant backgrounds. Conducted in Finnish, the training provides its participants with formal qualifications to work as teachers or in other similar jobs in Finland. Kuulumisia training is funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture, and the aim is to respond to changes in Finnish society. The graduates of the programme are competent international teachers who bring their multicultural skills to Finnish schools, promoting modern teaching methods and equality in their teaching.

“Kuulumisia training has considerable advantages. Those who have completed it have managed to get their part-time or fixed-term contracts changed to permanent ones. Moreover, the number of teachers who had previously been unemployed was halved after the training”, research assistant Jaakko Vuorio reports.

Furthermore, many such qualified teachers from immigrant backgrounds who previously worked in areas other than teaching or education have now found work that matches their qualifications. The training has also provided them with the knowledge and skills to work as teachers in Finnish schools.

An investigation into the effectiveness of the training

Vuorio’s recent Master’s thesis examines the effectiveness of Kuulumisia training, as well as the multicultural horizon of teacher training on a more general level.

Vuorio came up with the topic for his thesis when he was employed by the Kuulumisia project as a research assistant charged with evaluating the effectiveness of the training. The research data on the training’s effects also came to serve as material for Vuorio’s thesis, which investigates international research and theory on teachers with immigrant backgrounds.

In addition to the positive news, the results of Vuorio’s thesis reveal a darker side to Finnish society.

“The findings suggest that Finnish society is prejudiced. According to the survey, several teachers with immigrant backgrounds did not feel they were treated equally in the workplace or as job seekers. So, there is still room for improvement”, Vuorio states.

Vuorio sees a lack of respect and understanding as the cause of prejudice and inequality; this is partly due to the fact that teachers with immigrant backgrounds are a new phenomenon in Finnish schools.

“In Finland, there is a lack of recognition of these teachers’ high-quality degrees and varied language and cultural skills. This know-how is valuable to Finnish society.”

Towards multicultural teaching environments

For his thesis, Vuorio also gathered international research results and experiences. Outside Finland, the experiences of immigrant teachers are positive.

“Multicultural competence is a great resource for schools. It provides tools for teaching and intercultural understanding, and encourages teachers to engage in a dialogue about multicultural schools and education.”

“Children with immigrant backgrounds need teachers with cultural skills. As society becomes increasingly diverse, the teaching profession should become more multicultural, too. The multicultural nature of teaching is a topic that crosses cultural and ethnic boundaries.”

Vuorio recommends that the Kuulumisia training be extended to also provide formal qualifications for nursery school teachers with immigrant backgrounds. Furthermore, he hopes for closer cooperation with employment agencies to ensure that individuals in need of this type of training can be more efficiently directed to it right from the start of their job search.

New trainees have just been selected

The School of Education at the University of Tampere has organised Kuulumisia training since 2009. The training has been supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture in the form of Specima funding for continuing education.

“New trainees for Kuulumisia training have just been selected. There are 15 placements in pedagogical studies and 20 in multidisciplinary studies. The aim is to have this training increasingly integrated into the other activities of the School of Education”, states Juha Merta, a university lecturer working on the Kuulumisia project.

Text: Taina Repo
Photographs: Jonne Renvall