This post was originally posted on: https://theedvolution.com/what-teachers-can-learn-from-the-finland-education-system/
To achieve the rank of the top education system in the world, Finland did not take any drastic reforms that the rest of us cannot follow. They made small achievable changes to better the educations system and bring it to the level it is today. Finland ranks top in the Universita 21 rankings.
The education systems around the world fail to stimulate students to be creative thinkers. Because of a very result-driven mentality, the students are more focused on test scores rather than understanding the lesson, according to a study by Penn State. Creativity includes scientific reasoning and problem-solving abilities, and that is nourished by giving students the freedom to learn how they prefer rather than standardized lessons for all. Ken Robinson in his Ted Talk argues that it is high time to reform the education system to design a curriculum that encourages creativity rather than the current one-mould used to teach everyone. STEAM education is a great way to promote creativity in students.
Some of the other major lacking and problems faced by the education system of the US
- The large chunk of the student's day is spent in classes and after-school activities.
- Overworked teachers and overcrowded schools.
- Lack of diversity in a school.
- The inability of the education board to modify the curriculum according to the changing times.
- Kindergarten to college route that the average American can no longer afford.
Finland has a very holistic approach to education; focusing less on classroom education and more on the overall mental growth and skill learning by the youth. Education reforms in Finland are effective for everyone from the school level to universities.
What teachers can learn from the Finland education system?
The most basic rule Finland’s education system follows is equity over everything else. Standardized tests are not their measuring stick instead they value the emotional and cognitive growth of students. Here are 10 approaches used by Finland that teachers all over the world can learn from
Smaller classrooms to allow creative teaching
Finland has smaller classrooms with 15–20 students per teacher. That way a teacher can understand the various behavioral characteristics of all the students and teach in a way that helps the entire class grow. Teachers in Finland spend less time inside the classroom and more time playing with young kids. Even the basic math concepts such as units, tens, hundreds are taught using puzzles and craft paper so the students grasp the concept rather than do well in tests.
Aleksi Gustafsson, a Finnish teacher, takes his first graders out to the courtyard and teaches math using real-life sticks and leaves. He gives them tasks such as gather ’50 rocks’ and ‘lay the stones in groups of 10’. Children learn better when they are allowed to be free. Mental math and coding activities are superb tools to be creative teachers. Education is not necessarily attained inside classrooms. The Finland education system does not believe in burnt-out the students, which is why mandatory schooling starts at 7 instead of the age of 3 as in the USA.
More personal attention
Individual support and guidance are the key principles of the Finland education system. Not all students learn from the same teaching methods. Especially students that don’t have Finnish as their mother tongue receive extra personal attention from the teachers to make sure they are not lagging in class.
Michel Jordon received personal attention and mentoring from his father and coaches, he gives them the credit for a lot of his success.
The schools in the US have various immigrant students as well that require special assistance to learn the language and excel at school, but such students more often than not fail classes simply because of the language barrier or some learning disability. Undertood.org and niu.edu are excellent resources where you can learn how to give individualized attention to students.
Trade school V College
Finland is focused on teaching its youth basic life skills that help them earn a handsome living and contribute to the community and the country at large. Instead of the tradition K-12 then college path, Finland has only nine mandatory years of school that every child attends, afterwards from the age of 16 students can opt for higher education or more commonly go to trade schools to learn skills that are more focused on the overall development of the adolescent mind rather than a degree. Robotics and coding skills can also lead to a sustainable career.
Stephanie Clark, a renowned artist, has made a name for herself in the world of fashion by learning the skill of embroidery. Now she earns more than the average college graduate. This shows that trade school education is just as valuable as a college degree.
The school is not a place to cram or engage in a rat race. The Finland schools have a smaller number of classes’ every day with long breaks in between. Students are free to get up to stretch or go outside for a breather. The school serves quality and nutritious food to the students during school hours. This helps students grow not just educationally but socially and mentally as well.
Allowing kids to interact freely without any curriculum for socialization lets them learn life skills that are more valuable than any formal education. This free time also gives teachers a break so they don’t go home overworked and exhausted. This system works best for the early years of schooling. STEM education through creative activities also promotes a relaxed atmosphere.
Work with weak students
The goal of education in Finland is to make schools an unprejudiced place where students of all calibers are welcomed and appreciated equally. A school is a place that is free of all discrimination and Finland educators uplift the weaker students (who are economically or cognitively challenged) by using a holistic approach towards teaching. They work on the physical skills and mental development of weaker students to understand the root cause of the problem.
Teachers stay consistent with their efforts of teaching said students to make sure they acquire the skills to succeed. Since there are no tests to decide the value of a student, a weak student can learn and excel at life skills and make a good life for himself once out of school.
Lipin Raj MP was an economically underprivileged and handicapped man with only 40% eyesight. He was able to graduate high school and land his dream job due to consistent encouragement from his mentors.
Teachers all over the world can learn how to work with weaker students and inspire them to utilize their non-educational talents. Myrpivatetutor.ae and the University of Nebraska are online resources for teachers to learn activities to teach weaker students.
No mandated tests
Finland does not grade students on tests. There are no compulsory quizzes until one final exam at the time of graduation from high school. No scores are given or comparisons are drawn between students. The option is presented to students to sit for a standardized test when they are in the sixth grade and not before that.
Finland has realized that students will cram just about anything to score well on a test so they focus on learning and conceptualizing by not grading students on tests. Rather, teachers in Finland evaluate students on an individual basis using the systems they design. Robotics, coding, and mental math activities do not require many tests to evaluate students; rather giving creative activities can be enough.
This system of education works so well, that Finland’s prime minister is the youngest ever PM in the world.
For teachers who want to evaluate students individually separate from standardized tests, friendshipcircle.org and Carnegie Mellon University offer some interesting ideas. This approach is especially useful for preschool- secondary school years.
Well defined goals
The Finns celebrate learning more than the sores on a test. “We prepare children to learn how to learn, not how to take a test,” said Pasi Sahlberg, an educator in Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture.
The goal of Finland’s education system is clear; overall wholesome development of the youth. The government pays a sum of about 150 euros/month to the parents for every child in school up till the age of 17 years. That way the educators ensure that no child goes hungry and every basic need of the students is fulfilled at school and home. Poverty, hunger and homelessness are major causes of students not being able to focus on studies while in class and eventually dropping out of school.
Every educator prioritizes learning over cramming; however, the educational system of the US focuses more on tests and scores which leads to less understanding. For teachers who want to help students develop the skill to learn, education week and EdSurge are informative online resources.
Equality among students
In Finland, all the schools run on the same principle of doing the best for the students. So no matter if the school is in a wealthy part of the country or an immigrant neighborhood, the students are taught the same way to maintain equality and a standard among all schools across the country.
The educators come from the same source; all have gone to universities to acquire a master’s degree to be educators. So the teachers across Finland are all highly-trained educators to maintain equality in the standard of education received by the youth.
Even though the US does not require a master’s degree for teachers; educators can take it upon themselves to be as qualified as possible for the benefit of the students. The advocate and Buros have effective tips that all teachers must practice to maintain equality among the students for a better learning experience for all.
Do whatever it takes
A school psychologist is a part of the teaching team in Finland and collaborates with the home teacher to help students with different behavioral problems. The people in the government offices running and financing the schools are educators and not Politian’s or businessmen. This goes to show that Finland is willing to do anything to make the education system better. Instead of politics, Finns truly hold the students’ interest as the top priority.
We can all learn from this aspect and do whatever it takes to make education a priority. Louhivuori is an educator in Finland that took a 13-year-old under student under his wing for a year and did everything to improve his learning level so the student could understand the textbooks. Years later the student returned to tell his amazing teacher how much that helped him.
Teachers consult with colleagues
In Finland the teachers are not constantly evaluated based on how well the class is doing, rather they are trusted to do the job well without too many restrictions. That allows teachers to merge classes if necessary to let the students experience different methods of teaching.
Teachers in the US can apply that in their schools by freely collaborating. There is no reason to let politics come in the way, allow the students to switch classes for a day if some other teacher can explain the lesson better. Ask colleagues about the approach to teaching students that you just can’t reach. Ask others to step in once in a while. Teachers are a team that should uplift each other to do better for the students.
Bottom line is that Finland’s education system is one of the best in the world because they truly make students the priority. Not focusing on test scores, providing free medical insurance for students, one-on-one focused attention on the weak students and qualified educations are a few of the reasons why Finland ranks top in the education systems of the world.
Now if you want your students to excel in life and not just in school, then there is no better model for you to follow than Finland's education system. Implement the basic principles into your classrooms and see the difference it makes in the lives of the students. Involve your coworkers and other educators in your efforts that way you can benefit a higher number of students. Then your students can also become award-winning authors such as Finnish author Monika Fagerholm.