… in Pedagogical Cultures. Thestudents also made observations about the differences andsimilarities in Russian and Finnish pedagogical cultures. In thebeginning, the students felt that there are more differences thansimilarities in Finnish and Russian ways of teaching and learning.Especially different roles of teachersand pupils were most often commentedupon (11):

(11)At first I was really annoyed at our Russian teacher because shenever let me finish what I was saying and always said something whenI was still speaking. Much the same as the English teacher. But nowI’m sort of used to it already. Still, lessons are different thanin Finland and particularly the teacher-pupil relationship. Even areal trouble-maker becomes totally helpless for instance in theEnglish class and of course the teacher really enjoys herself whenshe can properly «direct» you.

One student madeobservations about the aims of the teaching in a Russian schooleducation, thought of possible reasons for the aims and drew someconclusions about the Russian society as a whole in the followingmanner (12):

(12)The aims of Russian school education are very different from Finnishones. In the math lessons the students have to solve a problempresented by the teacher independently on the blackboard. The teacherthen watches by and if the student goes even a little bit wrong withthe exercise he’s ordered back to his seat. There are only twomarks that the teacher gives student for their blackboard work, 2 and5, all or nothing.

Maybe they need asystem like this in Russia. It’s such a large country, so manypeople and in this way they can separate the sheep from the goats.During the Communist era, many talented researchers and scientistswere needed in the country, especially for developing weapons.

But what about the restof the people, those guys who are no good as scientists. Theirself-esteem is destroyed already at school so badly that many of themwon’t ever be able to get a good job.

Also the freedom ofspeech and thought of pupils, the power of the school to controlpupils’ private lives as well as parents’ efforts to help theirchildren to succeed were often observed (13):

(13)The school has too much authority here. It interferes with people’sprivate lives or at least ours. We still can’t say aloud what wereally think and have to shut up about what happens in free time.It’s too important for the parents that their child is a success.They even do their exercises and homework and especially things thathave to do with entrance exams or admission to a school. But they dostudy in earnest. The atmosphere is completely different than inFinland. Of course it’s also because you’re not on a first namebasis with your teachers and they are much more respected than inFinland. But I still like the atmosphere of Finnish classrooms more!Students here don’t really say anything. For example we had thispanel discussion about «What is independence all about?» (inconnection with the Finnish independence day). They really didn’thave any opinions about it or maybe it was a totally new situationfor them. Teaching is totally different.

5.Conclusion. In this paper I havebriefly described the notions of Finnish exchange students studyingin a Russian secondary school and the problems they were facingduring their stay. Especially in the beginning, the main problemswere related to language learning. The Finnish exchange students’knowledge of Russian was not good enough to deal with everydaysituations. After studying in the Russian school, the students alsonoticed that differences in the pedagogical cultures were anothersource of misunderstanding. For example, the different roles ofteachers and pupils were often mentioned.

Iwould like to describe the study as ‘a work in progress’, or ‘apilot study’, because of the novelty of Finnish student exchange inSt. Petersburg. I also would like to emphasise that my findings areonly preliminary, and I have mainly concentrated on naming theproblems. The next logical step is a more profound analysis of theproblems, perceived and observed by both the Finnish students andtheir local teachers.

Sofar, the preliminary findings have been used in the school in orderto prevent misunderstandings, caused by cultural differences and lackof common language. Some concrete actions have taken place in theschool in the past few years. For example, in the beginning of thestay, the school psychologist explains to the students majordifferences in the Russian and Finnish school systems and most ofall, shares their joys and sorrows during their stay. The resultshave been very promising and we will continue to work together inorder to create circumstances, where open-minded, interculturalcommunication would be the main principle of the school.


Теоретическаяи прикладная лингвистика. Вып.2. Язык исоциальная среда. Воронеж: Изд-во ВГТУ,2000. С.43-50.


© S.Pöyhönen, 2000

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