Learning is often criticised, and when it’s not, then young people always make an easy target. When pupils and students had a climate strike a couple of weeks ago, some supported them and some judged them. In the same spirit, the implementation of the basic education curriculum has been picked apart and critiqued for several years now. The discussion on education and learning is easily polarised at a level on which those with differing opinions are considered opponents and enemies and the discussion is led by emotions instead of by rational thinking.

This is just as our ancestors did. Aleksis Kivi’s seven brothers had enough of the education of the schoolmaster and fled from their home Jukola to the freedom of Impivaara. What then happened in freedom? The brothers learned as an independent learning community without teachers. Of course the brothers listened carefully to what the people they respected had to say to them, but ultimately they made the decisions on their future and required learning by themselves. Other jeered until there was nothing left to jeer at.

Recently, various student-oriented learning methods have become a visible part of the pedagogical discussion at universities as well. Nevertheless, they seldom really challenge the foundations of the learning culture. The traditional relationship of the teacher and the student remains even though the learner’s active role is increasing.

Studying can be considered radically egalitarian and democratic – for the teacher, too. Student-oriented learning communities do not operate under the monitoring eyes of teachers, but the teachers still become an equal member and part of a questioning and studying group. The French philosopher Jacques Rancière outlined this challenging premise in his book The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation.

Yet in university pedagogy, we also need more experiments that are based on different theoretical starting points. Such experiments broaden our perspectives and make us see how small the things we focus on are in the current debate and, moreover, that it is not possible to find only one truth for learning. Such an approach would have made the life of the schoolmaster and the seven brothers much easier. Anyway, we still have hope…


Matti Rautiainen
Department of Teacher Education

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