Before you start reading my review and column, it is important to know a couple of things about me.
I do not understand anything about laptops or computers beyond turning them on, going to Google, and scrolling mindlessly through Pinterest and other social platforms as well as Google Classroom.
This is a very biased column, based on my opinions, my experiences and my observations with hints of research. Not all may agree with me, but that’s totally okay.
The two things I’m going to talk about are the new Thinkpad laptop that the first graders got and the new free and mandatory secondary school education.
During late last school year and over the summer I got to try out the new laptop that all of our new first graders have gotten for themselves for the duration of their education in KSYK. These are my thoughts on it.
Appearance:the laptop is pleasing to the eye. It looks clean as it’s just a basic black laptop. It’s reasonably thin, with a semi-matte finish to it. Staying loyal to the Thinkpad look, the keypad has some red details, mainly on the speed cursor. (Someone please explain the use of that to me). Compared to my fairly simple and compact Lenovo Ideapad, the new laptop is noticeably heavier, but we’ll forgive that, because you can actually connect the laptop to more cords than the USB and HDMI. The keyboard has a weird rough feeling to it, which slightly confuses me, and the keys are clearly more prominent than my laptops.
Function: The first time I opened the laptop, I was panicking. I couldn’t get the scroll to work and the laptop didn’t want to connect to the wifi. The user’s fault, not the laptop’s. I can’t really comment on the speed of the laptop, as I mainly used it at home whilst doing school work, and my home wifi doesn’t do even my own laptop any justice. In my use, the battery lasted quite long, which is always a plus, especially when working at school or for example at REDI. To enhance your battery life, you can switch to “best battery life” mode by clicking the battery icon, which I think is really nice of them.
Obviously every time you get a new laptop or a computer, it’s going to take a moment or two to understand how it works. I think this laptop was fairly simple to use, and it didn’t take me that long to figure my way around the things that were different from my own laptop.
If I’d have to rate the laptop, I’d give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars. It did its job well, and most of the issues I had were something that I caused, so we can’t blame the laptop. However, I do prefer to use my own laptop, since I’m used to it. For a school laptop, this one’s more than fine. (And if you don’t like the laptop, just remember that the lower secondary uses the Chromebooks from the boxes around the school...)
Free secondary school education and the new OPS
In 2020 it was finally announced that the compulsory schooling for children born in 2005 and after was raised from 9 years to 11 years. This meant that when the new curriculum stepped into action in August of 2021, thousands of students studying under the new system would go to upper secondary or vocational school with all expenses paid. For them this change meant no more spending hundreds of euros on laptops, books and supplies, matriculation exam fees, sometimes even for school trips. For the students studying under the old curriculum, this however means still spending that money to succeed in their education.
From a personal perspective, this change makes me slightly bitter. The students studying under the old curriculum continue to spend possibly hundreds of euros per year in order to get through their education (2700€ in total according to SLL estimate made in 2019), on top of which we have to pay for a minimum of 5 matriculation exam fees. If we take classes meant primarily for the new curriculum students, we still have to pay for the materials by ourselves, because all the material is prepaid for the new students, and the school does not fund those courses for us.
Not only is this change impacting students, but the whole nation. Book stores like Suomalainen kirjakauppa and Akateeminen kirjakauppa will be stripped of part of their sales. Jamera, which is a store dedicated to selling used and new secondary school books will probably struggle after the students under the old OPS leave school.
According to this article published on YLE, the government initially reserved 27 million euros to the municipalities of Finland for the start of the new curriculum. This year a little less than 60 000 students started their compulsory secondary education, making the reserved sum crazy. Most of the schooling expenses come from the laptops, as they alone are most likely going to take no less than 400€ per student. If you divide that 27 million between 60 000 students, that equals around 450€ per student, meaning that the initial sum would leave only 50€ left over for the rest of the purchases, like books. According to the Association of the Finnish Municipalities (SKL), municipalities should be given an extra 20 million euros on top of the 27 million meant for the purchase of school supplies.
On the other hand, free school supplies have made secondary education available for people from all kinds of economic backgrounds. Students don’t have to worry about KELA-support to be able to afford supplies, and over 7km school trips are paid for by schools.
On a Google Forms that I sent to some first year students in our school, I asked a few questions regarding the new curriculum. When asked about the curriculum as a whole, many had a difficult time answering, as they’re still getting used to it. Others thought that it works quite well. As a tutor, it has been a challenge to try and understand how the system works, and then try to explain it to someone else. I’m still quite unsure how everything works, and the terminology change has been wildly annoying.
The question of free school supplies came up, most thought that it was awesome that school supplies are free in regards to the people who otherwise would have had a tough time managing to purchase such items. A few that answered were worried about the quality of the books as the curriculum progresses.
“Good thing. The bad thing is that all the books are digital, so you have to stare at the laptop all day. The studying for exams will be strenuous, when reading from the laptop screen.”
When second graders were asked for their opinions about the curriculum, the answers were quite conflicting.
“The new curriculum has a lot of good and bad things to it”
Some praised the old system, saying that they wouldn’t like to study under the new curriculum, others had more neutral opinions about the subject.
When the topic of free school supplies was brought up, the feelings were a bit mixed. On one hand, those who answered felt happy for the new students, or at least tried to feel some sort of happiness for them. Then on the other hand, feelings similar to mine were expressed.
“It’s wonderful that going to school is now free for everyone on higher grades, as it should be, but it is quite annoying to watch as other students get free laptops and books when I have to pay insane amounts for them myself. I’m trying to be positive for others”
Many second graders however believe that the option to decide between wanting a physical or a digital copy of a school book was nice. After spending hours and hours staring at the screen at school, it’s nicer to be able to read from a physical copy.
As I end this text, I want to wish the best of luck to first graders, who are diving straight into the deep end with the first year of upper secondary education ahead of them, as well as exploring the world of the new curriculum. On the contrary to my own personal opinions about this new curriculum, I’m going to say that it is obviously wonderful that the first year students are getting so many benefits from this change. May they use their advantages well.
Text: Daniela Wärnhjelm