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On Saturday we were able to experience something very Finnish – the last day of school.  I have several observations from the experience – all in no particular order of importance.

– The former Prime Minister was in attendance.  Not because he was there in some official capacity or campaigning or using the school as a prop to promote education or anything like that.  He was there because his child goes to the school.  No, it’s not a private school – it’s a public school and his child goes there like every other child.  No special treatment.  And no special recognition for the former Prime Minister either – in fact he stood in back of the crowd.  He was there as a proud parent, just like everyone else.  And no one made a fuss over him either because, well, he’s just like everyone else.  This is very Finnish, very refreshing and very healthy for a society.

– Awards were given out.  No sports awards because the Finns don’t equate school with sports.  These were awards for hardest working student in each class, getting along with other students awards, etc.

– Language. The school my children attend is bi-lingual – Finnish and English.  They attended the English side during our year here but but took Finnish language for a class.  It’s a public school.  If I were to count how many different languages were represented at the ceremony, I would guess the number would easily top 100.  People here are multilingual – many knowing 4-5 languages.  That’s truly impressive and inspiring me to learn more languages.  Understanding a language helps a person to understand a culture.

– People dressed up.  I’ve never seen so many people dressed up on a Saturday and not attending a wedding or funeral.  They dressed up out of respect for the day at hand – the last day of school.

– Oh yeah, did I mention that this happened on a Saturday morning?  I suspect this was happening at schools across Finland.  There was no complaining.  In Finland, there is Saturday school from time to time.  Just like the dealing with snow or other weather conditions, the Finns don’t complain, they adjust and keep going and make the most of the day.