YLE publishes a search engine for schools that arouses criticism

YLE publishes a search engine for schools that arouses criticism

Honkonen, on the other hand, questioned the ethics of publishing the search engine.

Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday reported that researchers have both welcomed the debate the publication sparked and condemned its racist nature. Emilia PalonenA senior researcher in political science at the University of Helsinki said that the way the ministers have criticized the public broadcasting company’s report is basically an undesirable development.

“Of course, it’s not a good thing that the ministers are reprimanding YLE,” he said.

Palonen added that, as a researcher, he is however satisfied with the political debate surrounding the search engine, especially as the parliamentary elections approach. The discussion sparked by the report reveals his view that in the capital region it has not been customary to discuss differences between schools based on the students’ mother tongue.

“But at the same time, information is needed to support decision-making,” he said, emphasizing the complexity of the matter. “Research information also simplifies phenomena and the research is partially outdated.”

Palonen saw that the ministers expressed displeasure with the search engine above all because the straightforward information it provides can brand certain parts of the city and their residents. He also estimates that the search engine offers an overly simplified presentation of the complex phenomenon of school inequality.

“On the basis of the information the schools get from the database, no conclusions can be drawn about the key issues related to the topic, and this kind of information should not be enough for the decision-makers either,” he said.

“Creating stereotypes leads to the same as in Sweden, where people are reluctant to move to certain areas.”

Hanna VirtanenEtla’s director of economic research told Helsingin Sanomat that YLE should have refrained from publishing the search engine in a form that identifies individual schools.

“Naming the schools was in no way a prerequisite for writing about the topic. YLE could have presented the matter on a more general level than telling about the performance of students in individual schools or revealing the income levels of their parents, he reasoned.

“As such, the school database stigmatizes children who attend certain schools negatively.”

He warned that the search engine only worsens inequality between schools, as the information it provides will inevitably influence parents’ decisions. “And these decisions are made by the wealthy.”

Jouko JokinenActing Director of YLE on Sunday, the editor-in-chief expressed his confusion over the public debate the article had sparked.

“Our task is to produce new and meaningful information for society and its population [pupils learning Finnish as a second language] and their distribution among different parts of the country is a simple fact. Telling them is important and interesting, he told Helsingin Sanomat.

“It was clear,” he added, referring to internal discussions leading up to the publication, “that the subject of immigration is always going to be hotly debated, but naturally it shouldn’t intimidate the media.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

Source: The Nordic Page

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