A unique principal who does not always sit in the office – but likes taking students out for ice cream

Whenever the students need support, the Principal of Forssa High School is always present or calls students directly. On Orientation Day, he took the international students out to have ice cream. 

The Principal, Dr. Simo Veistola, is the voluntary guardian of 5 Vietnamese students studying at Forssa High School, founded in the late 19th century. The principal had an open interview with Vietnamese parents on the topic of “happy students in a happy school”. 

A good principal should not let students feel shy

Dear teacher, in the recent Orientation week, a Finnish student at Forssa High School proudly declared “Teacher Simo is our dad”. What were your feelings on this at the time?  

I believe every student wants to feel secure at school. For that reason, a good principal should not let the students feel shy. Whenever students need support, I am always present or at least call directly to discuss. I believe it makes the students feel warm. As a result, students are motivated and have better learning outcomes. 

Maybe the students like me a little more because I am always open and eager to work with young talent. I rarely sit in the office but instead want to go out and meet the students. At the school, the students believe that for every 5 steps they will bump into me again.   

Principal Simo Veistola and a Vietnamese student

Students choose their own subjects and schedule, and have the right to choose their teachers too

My son studied at a well-known specialized school in Ho Chi Minh City before he went to Finland. In the first month of studying at Forssa High School in Finland, he is not only proud of the new school but also that every day at school is truly a happy day. What is your recipe, so that international students can adapt quickly despite the language barrier – as Finnish is not an easy language to learn? 

We are a member of ERASMUS – a student exchange program throughout Europe. Annually, dozens of international students study here, and vice versa, our students also have semesters from all over the European countries. 

I highly recommend welcoming international students, so that our students have an opportunity to experience the international environment and global culture every day in this school. 

In Forssa, each student has full control of their learning. They can choose their own subjects and schedule, and even have the right to choose their teachers too. 

Students have the freedom to choose their own academic path to graduate in 2, 3, or 4 years, and to spend the remaining time playing sports or studying more about their favorite subjects.   

We do not have the concept of “classmates”, as each student chooses their own schedule and has an opportunity to communicate with all students in the school. Surprisingly, this does not bother the students, instead, it makes them very excited as they have the chance to learn from everyone. 

On Orientation Day, you took the students to have ice cream and gave my son a ball. Through that gift, I can understand that your wish is “let’s play more!”? 

You know, for us, the grades in school do not matter at all. 

Students at our school usually start classes at 8:15 A.M., from Monday to Friday. There are 3 lessons per day, each session lasts 75 minutes. The class will end around 1:00 – 2:30 P.M. The students have 45 minutes for the lunch break. 

After school, students can participate in their favorite activities. About 50 students join sports clubs and the rest attend music or art clubs. 

Is it thanks to such sports activities, my son feels fitter and healthier now? 

In my opinion, that is not only due to physical activities but also to healthy school lunches. We control to keep salt and fat levels in students’ meals low.

In addition, not only lunches but also laptops and study materials are all provided free of charge to all students at Forssa High School. 

Teachers are rigorously trained, giving great autonomy

In Forssa High School, my son studies less than he did in Vietnam by about 12 lessons per week. In the PISA exam (a global competition for 16-year-olds in 3 skills – reading and comprehension, math, and science), Finnish students are always at the top of OECD countries, outperforming students in the United States and the United Kingdom. We have the idiom “No pain, no gain”, but is this idiom not true for the Finnish way of teaching? 

In Finland, the hard work is for the teachers. High school teachers have high qualifications. They have to go through rigorous selection and training processes and are given enormous autonomy; therefore, they are proud of and passionate about their jobs.  

I am glad to know that Forssa High School is ranked the in the top 20 of the large-scale schools in Finland with the best results in the matriculation exam. What is your school’s recipe for success? 

One of the main reasons is that the school has an excellent careers guidance team. 

Each student is guided to careers that match their individual capabilities and interests and the best way to achieve their goals. As a result, each student has a clear learning goal and personal plan throughout the school years. 

I am proud that every Forssa High school student heads to the best colleague possible. 

Source: Son Hung for Vietnamnet