October 22, 2020
We recently wanted to find out what the conversation surrounding Finnish schools is like. Is the tone positive or negative? What topics regarding school are being discussed? Our partner in this study, DrAI, used Artificial Intelligence to analyze some 280,000 tweets related to school in Finland between January 2019 to September 2020. We have come up with some interesting findings- and you can see it all in this article!
We recently launched the Kiitos-kampanja (kiitoskoulu.fi) - or 'Thank you' campaign in English - to promote a more positive dialogue around the school system, and to shine a light on the many reasons why we should be grateful to schools, and the people involved in the school system. During the planning of this campaign, the importance of understanding the conversation surrounding school came to light.
1. The tone of conversation regarding school is more positive than we had anticipated
We must say we were a little surprised by the results as we had expected to see a more negative conversation. However, the conversation on Twitter regarding school turned out overwhelmingly positive.
In the media, schools are often mentioned when they are faced with challenges or problems. However, our results indicate that the tone of conversation is quite different from what is being portrayed in the media.
2. The main topics discussed are: Coronavirus and the school’s relationship with society
As expected, coronavirus and distance learning dominated the conversation on school. Another topic that triggered debate was the school’s relationship with the society, which included discussions about the extension of compulsory education. A bill related to this has been in preparation since summer 2019. Quite clearly, current social issues drive the biggest share of the public debate.
Had the period of this study been longer, we would probably see a rise in the volume of the conversation regarding school in recent years. Education has found its way to the forefront of the public debate.
3. Negativity is increasing
Between 2019 and 2020, the share of conversations that can be categorized as positive has decreased, while the share of negative has increased. However, the findings of this study suggest that the coronavirus pandemic is not solely responsible for the rise in the negative tone of conversation. There may be a growing concern about social change and reforms in the education system.
4. In the negative discussions, compulsory education was the overriding topic of conversation
The bulk of the negative conversation belonged to compulsory education. On Twitter, some of the concerns that arose were on whether raising the compulsory school leaving age will bring the desired results, and how different municipalities will have very different positions as education providers (Municipalities in Finland are the providers of education due to a governance decentralization of education, thus giving them decision making power, and the responsibility for quality assurance and the preparation of a local curriculum).
The bill to extend compulsory education has noticeably increased concerns about increasing inequality, despite the bill’s main objective being the exact opposite.
5. Most of the gratitude is shown towards teachers
We also took a closer look at messages expressing gratitude. Findings suggest that expressions of gratitude and acknowledgments do not represent a significant part of the conversation around school in general.
The strongest expressions of gratitude were visible in conversations related to the changes brought about by distance learning, where gratitude was directed towards service providers (including teachers, staff, pupils and digital content producers).
The topics or subjects of gratitude are not surprising at all. Since this spring, the coronavirus pandemic has forced people to notice the important and challenging work done in schools. The appreciation for teachers’ efforts certainly increased during the teleworking period in spring.
What’s surprising is how narrow a topic gratitude has been in the discussions we analyzed, and how few messages of gratitude were addressed directly to schools on a free open discussion platform like Twitter.
Conversation related to primary and secondary education was included in this analysis, and discussions related to early childhood education and higher education were excluded. In this study, Drai's algorithm analyzed a large volume of text in the form of tweets identified as relevant content, and then the tweets were divided into topics. In addition, the algorithm performed a sentiment analysis of the tweets and made statistical comparisons between topics and time periods. Studeo is an e-learning platform that offers high quality content and adaptive learning tools in one package.