Cooperation with upper secondary schools – knowledge and benefits in two directions

 

The Language Centre has been cooperating with schools for several years already.  We have been preparing a special language info-package for secondary school teachers and in 2009 we got our own “sponsored school”, Helsinki Upper Secondary School of Languages. Our English and Swedish teachers have trained the schoolteachers in the evaluation of oral skills. We have also participated in the info events organised by the University. These events have given upper secondary school students the opportunity to find out about the Language Centre and language study.

Although the educational background of students coming to the University varies a lot, the majority still come directly from school. It is therefore important that we are aware of the ways that languages are studied in today’s school system. In turn, the Language Centre can open a window on university language studies for the schoolteachers. Helsinki Upper Secondary School of Languages is one of the schools in Finland with a special educational task in the field of languages. It has approximately 580 students and they can choose between the two available programmes: a general programme and a languages programme.

There have been many different forms of cooperation between the Language Centre and the school since the cooperation started in 2009. There have been seminars and other training sessions, teaching observation and visits of staff and students in both directions. It has been a very fruitful process, as Antti Tiger, one of the secondary school teachers of English and Swedish, says: “It has been nice to see how the our collaboration has strengthened over time, and it has been of benefit to both our teachers and our students. The students have found out what language study in the University is all about, and the teachers have got lots of tips and ideas for their own teaching. Taking part in Language Centre events is like coming home.”

2014 was an especially active year. At a joint seminar in April we considered, amongst other things, how working life language needs are visible in upper secondary school and Language Centre teaching. On the brink of summer, we met in a seminar on online pedagogy. In October Antti Tiger told us about making “mockumentaries” in his Swedish classes and Antti’s students also made two visits to Tuula Lehtonen’s Academic Writing course at the Language Centre.

The latest initiative was the Language Centre’s participation in the “language week” organised by the school in November 2014. One of our English teachers, Kenneth Kidd, gave an inspiring class on debating to the school students. Our course assistant programme coordinator, Nina Sulonen, and two of our course assistants in Italian, Talia Sbardella and Giulia Pernisi, visited an Italian class at the school. “The girls were a breath of fresh air in our Italian class,” their Italian teacher, Heidi Kohi, commented on the rewarding visit.

Students of Helsinki Upper Secondary School at their Chinese morning exercise session.