By Dean Urdahl
Recently my family and I took a vacation to Finland and Norway. I, being the type who likes to see how things are done elsewhere, made it a point to visit schools and farms. There is something to be learned from how other people and countries do things, and this trip gave me a great chance to let my inquisitive mind roam free.
I visited the Kalajoki, Finland schools to discuss why they are so successful. Finnish students are extremely well educated and their education system uses techniques that our system could learn from. According to principal Riko Saksholm, a major factor for the success of the Finnish education system is the high quality of their teachers. All Finnish teachers hold Master’s degrees.
I was also quite impressed with the Finnish farming system. I visited a modern, technologically mechanized Finnish dairy farm and watched the farmer's computerized milking system. This system was extremely efficient. It allows for the milking to require less active participation from the farmers, giving them more time to work on other aspects of farming.
During our visit to Norway I was able to meet with Member of Parliament Einar Dorum. Education, amongst other topics was a large portion of our discussion. We discussed the success of the Finnish model of education. Dorum informed me that Norway was looking at the Finnish model in search of aspects that could be implemented into their own educational system. We discussed some of the downfalls in both the current American and Norwegian systems. It was interesting to hear what they perceived as areas of improvement.
Another highlight of my trip was Benson Whitney, the American Ambassador to Norway. Ambassador Whitney is a very kind person who discussed with me the opportunities available for American students in Norway. We discussed some student exchange programs for students both in high school and college.
We also share the common thread of baseball. The Ambassador commented on the growth of American baseball in Norway. He cited baseball as one of the many things Norwegians share an interest in with Americans and how it is being used to strengthen ties between the two countries.
Overall, I learned many good things on this trip. I look forward to discussing the Finnish model for education and farming techniques with my colleagues in St. Paul over the next several months to see how we can improve both systems in Minnesota.