How is media education implemented in teaching in Finland?

There is a lot of talk about media education for children and young people and its importance. In general – and understandably – the importance of school in the teaching of media competencies is highlighted first. From this perspective, it is a bit surprising how little comprehensive information we have on how media education is implemented in practice in Finnish education. 

One possible window for teaching media competencies is given by Opeka. Opeka is an online tool for teachers and schools to measure and analyse their use of information and communication technology (ICT) in teaching. Tampere Research Center for Information and Media (TRIM) is responsible for the development of the service.  Over the years, Opeka and related data collection have been funded by, for example, the Finnish National Agency for Education and the Ministry of Education and Culture. 

Opeka’s public performance reports can be viewed over several years, and for this I chose 2020 as the review period. In 2020, there were a total of 3,594 respondents during the year and they worked in 20 different municipalities. The largest groups of respondents were teachers who teach different subjects, especially to young people (N = 1410) and classroom teachers working with children aged 7–12 (N = 1383). There was a total of 540 special education teachers in the respondents. There were also a small number of vocational school teachers (N = 76) and study counselors (N = 70) in the data. 

Like many other data collections related to media education, Opeka was originally developed for a purpose other than examining media education. Therefore, it is a matter of opinion which of the evaluation tool’s various statements you want to consider as indicators of media education. For this review, I selected five statements that, in my opinion, describe moderately well the areas that are often considered important in media education: 

  1. Students often produce different types of media contents (such as audio, video and images) in my classes.
  2. I teach my students various means to participate in society through the internet. 
  3. I teach my students to understand and interpret various digital media contents. 
  4. I often discuss with my students the reliability of information available on the Internet and how to use it appropriately. 
  5. I regularly guide students to use the Internet responsibly and legally.

Teaching media competencies in basic and upper secondary education in Finland

Based on the responses, it appears that the majority of teachers teach their students issues related to media interpretation, information reliability and appropriate online behaviour. By way of contrast, the teaching of participation in society is present much less often.  

However, it is particularly noteworthy that only a minority of teachers offer lessons that include students often producing media content themselves. Fewer than one in five respondents even somewhat agreed with the statement, even though media content included here as simple outputs as pictures. Clearly, there is still work to be done to support students’ own media production, which should be encouraged, for example, through further training and other development projects. 

It is also an interesting observation that the technical readiness of a school, the attitudes of a teacher or even the ICT skills of a teacher as such do not necessarily translate directly into teaching practices. On a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being the worst and 4 being the best, technical capacity was assessed with an average of 3, attitudes 2.4 and ICT skills 2.1. Pedagogical use was clearly rated the weakest, receiving only a level of 1.7. The result provides an indication of how important it is in teacher education to pay attention to the fact that teachers are not only taught the general use of ICT or suggest examples of software and tools. Long-term attention must be paid to the introduction and establishment of well-functioning and diverse pedagogical practices in the everyday life of classrooms.

Comparing the answers of different groups of teachers, it can be stated that with these indicators, media education is most often implemented by those teachers who work with children in grades 3–6, that is, children aged 9–12. You can read more about Opeka’s reports, such as the differences between different teacher groups and response years here. 

Saara Salomaa 
Senior Adviser, National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI) 

Source: Opeka Yearly report 2020.