This has nothing to do with our business, but it’s cool — Going to School In Finland is Dope :)
By TRISOFT team
So do you ever feel like all we talk about is business business business? Day and night we try to come up with the best strategies, the greatest ideas, the biggest plans for our company; every topic we come across on the Internet or in our daily conversations tends to lean towards the same themes — how to be better and more successful.
And while that is a good approach for a person who is trying to be best at what he does, what we are proposing is short break from the business world. How? Through a new series of articles we will call — This has nothing to do with our business, but it’s cool, where we will be talk about anything but work :) Ok, we admit, the first one is a bit related. We will tell you why we think the Finnish educational system is awesome. Intrigued?
A bit of history
Finland’s schools were not always a thing to look up to. Up to the late 1960s, Finns still showed signs of Soviet influence. Most children left public school after six years. There were few, privileged and lucky ones, who actually got a quality education.
But Finland started to change direction about 40 years ago. Two decades after, the results showed by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) revealed Finish youth to be the best young readers in the world. Three years later, they led in math. By 2006, Finland was first out of 57 countries in science. In the 2009 PISA scores, the nation came in second in science, third in reading and sixth in math among nearly half a million students worldwide. Today, Finland’s school system is still top-ranked in these areas. 93% of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools. 66% percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union.
How do they do it?
Here is where the most interesting part comes in. Finland is a rule-breaker. There is nothing conventional about how they organize and relate to their school system.
Children begin school after turning 7, as Finnish believe that is the proper age when kids are developmentally ready to learn adequately. They go to school for fewer hours a day and have very little homework. There are no rankings, comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finnish children and adolescents don’t take mandated tests all that much. There is this one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school, but other than that teachers believe that test scores aren’t the most concludent thing about a student (imagine that! :D).
Another essential aspect is that every school has the same national goals and teachers are trained all the same, so that anywhere they go to teach children, they will be able to do it in the same excellent manner. This way all children, no matter if they go to school in the countryside or in a large city, get the same quality education.
There was a study very recently, conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and it showed that in Finland there are extremely few differences between the students with the best results and those with the poorest results. This is nowhere to be found in the world rather than Finland. Not to mention that Finland’s schools are publicly funded.
Sounds awesome! So what can we learn from Finland’s achievements? Let’s start with understanding their methods in more detail.
1. They let children play
Finnish don’t forget children are… children. So even when they go to school, they have several breaks during the day and usually they spend them outside, no matter the cold weather. For 15 or 20 minutes children get the chance to clear their mind, digest what they have heard in class, play and exercise while breathing the fresh air. Their brain is oxygenated and they put their energy to good use, instead of sitting on a chair and inevitably losing their focus. Not to mention that they have classes for 3 or 4 hours a day only.
2. Less time in school, more rest
As we were saying, Finnish children don’t spend as much time in school as other European students for example. Besides allowing them to play, this system also allows them to get the rest they need in order to always be in shape and happy to be at school.
To begin with, they start school after 9 a.m. Up to 9.45. And they end it by 2 or 2.45 tops. Why? Because they are considering the research made in the field, which shows that children and adolescents need quality sleep in the morning. This whole system respects both students and teachers, by allowing them to be well rested and ready to learn and teach.
3. They give teachers respect
And it’s not just by giving them breaks during school hours. The selection process for primary school teachers and not only is extremely rigorous. Yearly thousands of applicant students are turned down so that only the few that show really special abilities will get to teach children. Statistically, only 10% are accepted. They go through interviews, personality tests and other screenings, specially made to determine if they actually have what it takes to become teachers, potentially role models for young minds. Not to mention that they are required to have a Master’s degree in order to qualify for the job.
This is why students and parents of students really respect and appreciate teachers. Beyond their good manners, they know that the person in front of the classroom is there for a reason, that they are properly trained and have the best interest of their children at heart.
4. Less testing, more learning
Testing is for every teacher and student like a dark cloud hovering over every end of the school year. There are so many exciting things to do, so many options and alternatives, if only less was connected to a student’s test scores. The Finnish school system has tests, but way less than most European countries. With less testing, teachers have more freedom to discover and encourage children’s aptitudes, which will eventually lead them to be actually good at what they do in the real life. Whether this is math, language, science or sewing, cooking, woodworking or anything other.
5. They offer children individual attention
The Finnish educational system is very much based on giving students undivided attention. Which may be hard with 30+ students in a classroom, but not impossible. An efficient strategy they are using is keeping the same teacher with a group of students for up to six years. This way, they get familiar with each other, the teacher gets to know each student’s individual needs and skills. Whenever a student falls back or needs extra attention, they are encouraged and helped. Overall, teachers don’t stress out students, trying to prove them wrong, but rather assist and collaborate with them in order to guide them towards life in the world outside.
6. Less homework, more participation
It’s a fact: Finnish students have the least amount of homework in the world. On top of not having outside tutors and extra lessons. Compared to the American system or even the Romanian one, where students in final years spend a great deal of their free time on extra classes, it comes as quite a shock to know that Finnish students are outscoring all the above mentioned. It’s maybe due to the fact that both them and their teachers are serious about getting the work done in class.
7. They know the meaning of the word trust
To sum up, the entire Finnish educational system is based on trust. They have replaced being suspicious and creating rules, regulations, hoops and tests to see if the system is working and if the students are ready with trust. How does it work? Well society trusts the schools to hire great teachers. The school trusts the teachers to be highly trained and perform accordingly. Parents trust the teachers to make decisions that will help their children learn and thrive. Teachers trust the students to be dedicated and learn for the sake of learning. Students trust the teachers to give them the tools they need to be successful. And finally society trusts the system and gives education the respect it deserves.
Less IS more.
It works and it isn’t complicated. Finland has it figured out. Instead of control, competition, stress and standardized testing, try warmth, collaboration, and high professionalism. They truly believe and live by the mentality of less is more. Not only with the school system, but with their day to day lives too. I mean they don’t need to have 100 types of cereal to choose from, they only have a few. They don’t over consume. Finns don’t buy a ton of cheap clothes, but choose less, expensive ones of good quality, that will be good for years rather than months. They live in quite fairly small houses, enough to keep them comfortable. Women wear less makeup and men have fewer cars…
They live simply and humbly. But they are great at so many things. Starting with their educational system. When asked how he can describe it in a few words, a Finnish teacher declared for a famous magazine: We prepare children to learn how to learn, not how to take a test; we know much more about the children than tests can tell us.
Now isn’t that something to look up to? At TRISOFT, we certainly do admire the success of the Finnish educational system. So much that we would be tempted to test it, if only the language was easier to learn :)