Finnish Education System
A lot is happening in the education space from online to offline. Every board is trying to update their curricula and make it unique, every academician is trying to make their institute the best, every parent is investing more and more now to ensure the right inputs are given to their child. Now, education tops the agenda in every sphere. And if trying to figure out the best possible education destination, then Finland certainly tops. No wonder, Finland has topped the charts of being the Worlds Happiest Country, now twice in a row.
I recently attended a Training program in Understanding the Finnish Education System in Helsinki, Finland. I had heard a lot about how their system was one of the best in the world but getting a chance to experience it first hand was certainly an experience I wasn’t ready to let go off. A small group of 15 participants from across the world – UK, USA, Brazil, China, Kazakhstan, Singapore, Canada, Ireland and myself from India made the entire learning and sharing process interesting. I was unsure what was going to learn, considering it was a 5 day Summer school for Teachers to understand their functioning. I was the only non-teaching participant in among the global group of Academicians and School Administrators. As a counselor, my curiosity to know more about what are they doing right in their system was always more – as my work involves working with students, parents, academic institutes, working professionals and Corporate too. Over the past 20 years, I have observed that Career emerges or is driven by the education system. Once education is in place, it is easier to make the right choices. When I mention education, I am focusing on the conceptual clarity and the eagerness to learn.
Coming back to the training program, we were assured that we would get the insight but with ease and fun. One of my fellow participants from Canada had an opening question to our Trainer – how come your students love to go to school. He asked this, as he had interviewed many students about their view on attending school, and he was shocked to hear that all of them [from across grades] loved school; something unheard of for most of us. Of course, by the end of the session, we understood the reason. To begin with, Finnish culture value schooling, their own language and literacy the most. The education system is designed not just from the learner’s perspective, but also from a socio-cultural point of view. They view learning as an active and constructive process rather than a passive reproductive process. The new Finnish curriculum has phenomenon-based learning in addition to high-quality subject matter pedagogy [the method and practice of teaching]. They have tried to fix the problem of transferring knowledge from academic context to real-life situations. The early childhood and pre-primary education are imparted to 5 – 6-year-olds, but it is mostly fun and no subjects taught.
The Comprehensive Schools i.e. primary education starts at the age of 7 and until the age of 16, [grade 1 to 9] and then General Upper Secondary Schools i.e. matriculation exams which are for the next 3 years [i.e. grade 12]; which can be either followed up by Vocational qualification or entry into any bachelor’s degree. The students can go up to Ph.D. There is a concept of Voluntary additional year of basic education year [after grade 9], which essentially is a gap year before students decide on the career path. This gives a student to make the right choice about their field of study. About the schools, why are they loved? The reasons are striking – the school days are quite short and homework is minimal. For smaller classes, there’s almost no homework. All children get a hot and healthy free meal at school [no junk food allowed], even in high school. The study material is also given free during Comprehensive Schools. There is no private tutoring, so the expenses on education for parents are almost nil. The schools get communal support in funding education.
There is no gender gap and all children are given equal opportunity. The curriculum is the same across the country, making it easier to intercut and bring about change. The Finnish system does not employ any external standardized student testing to evaluate the performance of their schools. There is no inspection system either. The students get to design their own classroom and though the curriculum as defined in the primary schools, there is no fixed daily time-table. The teachers and students jointly decide the flow. There are Camp schools too – which help teachers to teach certain subjects practically. These Camp Schools are outbound, residential and help students to understand theory in a practical setting. Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Geography, Sustainable Development and so on are taught in these camp schools. It is a joint effort between the Teacher and the Camp school instructor. To get more updates, continue reading our next piece on Finnish Education System…