Finnish Education: Topics, Play, Student Rearing, National Pride

Dropping Abstract Subjects, in favor of topics anchored in real-world affairs:

The Finns are teaching phenomena—such as the European Union, which encompasses learning languages, history, politics, and geography. No more of an hour of history followed by an hour of chemistry. The idea aims to eliminate one of the biggest gripes of students everywhere: “What is the point of learning this?” Now, each subject is anchored to the reason for learning it. ~ Quartz

  • “Co-Teaching”: The new system is much more collaborative, forcing teachers from different areas to come up with the curriculum together.
  • “There are schools that are teaching in the old fashioned way which was of benefit in the beginnings of the 1900s—but the needs are not the same and we need something fit for the 21st century.”

Frequent breaks for free play:

  • Students and teachers in Finland take a 15-minute break after every 45 minutes of instruction.
  • They’ve been providing breaks to their students since the 1960s. (Really? Evidence?)
  • Finnish children spend the fewest number of hours in the classroom in the developed world
  • Finnish students would—without fail—enter the classroom with a bounce in their steps after a 15-minute break.
  • They’re all totally serious about taking breaks.
  • Anthony Pellegrini—author of Recess: Its Role in Education and Development and emeritus professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota
    • In East Asia most primary schools give their students a 10-minute break after 40 minutes or so of classroom instruction
    • In every one of the experiments, students were more attentive after a break than before a break.
    • Children were less attentive when the timing of the break was delayed / class dragged on.
    • In one of his experiments at the public elementary school, students had their recess times inside the school and the results matched those of other experiments where students took their breaks outside
      • What’s most important is not where kids take breaks but how much freedom we give them from their structured work.

When break times are teacher-directed,Pellegrini found, the recess loses its value. It’s free-play that gives students the opportunity to develop social competence. During these times, they not only rest and recharge—they also learn to cooperate, communicate, and compromise, all skills they need to succeed academically as well as in life.

Mixed classroom learning:

  • The pupils are all kept in the same classroom, regardless of their ability.
    • Additional teacher who helps those who struggle
  • ”The Finnish system supports very much those pupils who have learning difficulties but we have to pay more attention also to those pupils who are very talented. Now we have started a pilot project about how to support those pupils who are very gifted in certain areas.”
  • Same students, same room, same teacher for many years. ”I’m like growing up with my children, I see the problems they have when they are small. And now after five years, I still see and know what has happened in their youth, what are the best things they can do. I tell them I’m like their school mother.”
  • Children in Finland only start main school at age seven. The idea is that before then they learn best when they’re playing and by the time they finally get to school they are keen to start learning. link

Culturally:

  • There is an emphasis on relaxed schools, free from political prescriptions
  • Teaching is a prestigious career in Finland. Teachers are highly valued and teaching standards are high.
  • Reading with the kids at home
  • Families have regular contact with their children’s teachers

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Jordan is a freelance engineer with full-stack chops, and an eye for analytics and growth.