The school system here is so bizarre. As a general rule, the classes last for two hours, and there are about six of them (more for a large class, but all mine are ‘short’) before you have the test. Also, you don’t need to go every day if you prefer to study on your own. Most of the time, if it’s a large class with an exam at the end, the teachers don’t take attendance.
Also, they allow book exams, which is primarily for English speaking students. In a book-exam course, you study completely on your own based on a book assigned by the teacher, then show up to take a test over the material you were told to study. It is interesting because it allows the student to take responsibility for his/her own education. Also, it seems to allow for a better student/teacher relationship because the student isn’t forced into attending a class at an inconvenient time or place.
There tends to be very little homework given in most classes, so you’re more likely to have a large project or paper due at the end of the course. If you do have a large project, there usually isn’t a test at the end. The system is good, but it is very stressful for some students – especially those from the United States – because your entire grade is based off of one assignment, or one test. This can be problematic because the student finds themselves having a lack of knowledge as far as the test style and structure goes. To help combat the possibility of failure, the school allows a student to take the exam more than once. So the first test date will generally be in the middle of October, then the second will towards the end of December. As a foreign exchange student, I am not allowed to come back to retake an exam in the second semester, but students here can.
Another interesting differentiation between school in the United States and Finland, is that the library carries multiple copies of most textbooks, so the students don’t have to buy the books. They rent them by the month, and study from them, then have to return them if somebody else has reserved the book. An interesting thing about the library here is that you can rent a book at a self-renting station, and return it to the library at that same station by yourself as well. The system works based on barcodes and a scanner, and your student card. The copy machine and scanner work that way as well. For those of you that use banana bucks at the library at Pittstate, it is similar, except you actually punch in your student username and code at the machine and then it works. You can refill it at the main desk, or you can do it online. Also, your account starts out with six euro on it, so you can print off that much stuff for ‘free’.
I don’t think that you can use your own laptop to get internet in the library, so you have to instead use the ones they have set up. It works well, but sometimes you have to wait a few minutes to use one. They also have group work rooms, and a silent reading room there. I really love the silent reading room – I think every library should have one!
So…that’s just a little view into how the school system is different from the United States…