In Finland, children at school are prepared not for exams, but for life

Known in Uzhgorod and the region teacher Mykhailo Mehesh shared in Facebook an interesting article about the basic principles of Finnish education. We think it will be interesting to parents of Transcarpathian school students, as well as teachers and employees of education departments, since Finnish schoolchildren, according to studies, showed the highest level of knowledge in the world.

Natalya Kireeva lives in Helsinki. Recently, she told about the system and the principles of local education and shared her opinion on the reasons the Finnish education is considered one of the best in the world.

According to international studies, that are conducted once in 3 years by an authoritative Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Finnish students showed the highest level of knowledge in the world. These children read the most, ranked second in science, and fifth in mathematics. But it is not even that that strikes the pedagogical community so much. It is incredible that with such high results students spend the least amount of time studying.

Secondary compulsory education in Finland consists of two-stage schools:

– Lower (alakoulu), grades 1 to 6;

– Higher (yläkoulu), Grades 7 to 9.

In an additional 10th grade, students can improve their scores. Then children go to a vocational college or continue their education in high school (lukio), 11th – 12th grades in our conventional sense.

7 principles of Finnish secondary education:

1. Equality

Of schools.

There are neither elite, nor "poor" ones. 960 students study in the biggest school of the country. 11 – in the smallest one. All have absolutely identical equipment, facilities and proportionate financing. Almost all schools are public, there are about a dozen of partially private ones. The difference, besides the fee, is in increased requirements for students. Typically, those are sort of "teaching" laboratories that practice Montessori, Freinet, Mortagne, or Waldorf school of pedagogy. Institutions with teaching in English, German, French languages are also private.



Of all subjects.

In-depth study of certain subjects over others is not welcome. They do not believe that mathematics is more important than art, for example. On the contrary, the only exception for forms with gifted children may be a propensity for drawing, music and sports.

Of parents.

A teacher can find out the profession (social status) of a child’s parents only if absolutely necessary. Teachers are not allowed to ask questions about parents’s job.

Of students.

Finns do not sort students into classes according to their abilities or career preferences.

There are no "bad" and "good" students. It is is prohibited to compare students with one another. All children, regardless of mental abilities, are considered "special" and study together.   Finns do their best to integrate into society those who need special treatment. The difference between poor and good students is the smallest in the world.

Of teachers.

There are no "favorites" or "detestable grumblers." Teachers also cannot have their "pets" and vice versa. Any deviation from harmony leads to termination of the contract with the teacher. Finnish teachers must only do their job as mentors. They are all equally important, regardless of the subject they teach.

Equal rights for adults (teachers, parents) and children.

Finns call this principle "respect for the student." Starting grade 1, children are explained their rights, including the right to "complain" about adults to social workers. This encourages Finnish parents to understand that their child is a person who must not be abused physically or verbally. 

2. No fees

In addition to the education, the following things are free:


tours, museums and all extracurricular activities;

transport that takes a child to school and back if the nearest school is located more than two kilometers away;

books, all stationery, calculators, and even tablets.

It is prohibited to take money from parents for any purpose.

3. Individuality

There is an individual plan of training and development for each child.

At the lesson in the same form, children solve tasks of different difficulty levels. And they will be graded according to the personal level. 

In Finnish schools, along with the usual training, there are two unique kinds of educational process:

Supportive teaching for "poor" students – what in Ukraine is done by private tutors. In Finland, tutoring is not popular, school teachers provide additional help voluntarily during or after lesson.

Corrective training to address persistent problems in learning, for example, because of a poor knowledge of non-native Finnish language or difficulties in remembering, in mathematical skills, as well as antisocial behavior of some children. Corrective training is carried out in small groups or individually.

4. Practicality

Finns say: "Either we prepare them for life, or for exams. We are chosing the former." Therefore, there are no exams in Finnish schools. Intermediate tests – at the discretion of a teacher. There is only one mandatory standard test at the end of secondary school, and teachers do not care about the results and do not prepare children specifically for it: it’s good as it is.

At school, they teach children only what they may need in life.  So, local kids know since childhood what a portfolio, a contract, a bank card is. They can calculate the percentage of the tax on inheritance or income, create a business card website, calculate the price of the goods after several discounts or draw a "wind rose" in a given area.

5. Trust

First, there are no inspections of school employees and teachers, no district boards, education coordinators, who teach how to teach, etc. The curriculum in the country is unified, but there are only general guidelines, and each teacher uses the learning method, which he or she deems proper.

Second, the trust in children: they can do something else during the lessons. For example, if at the literature lesson, students are watching an educational film, but some students are not interested, they can read books. It is believed that a student can choose what is more useful for him or her.

6. Voluntary involvement

Only he who wants to learn will learn. Teachers try to attract the attention of a student, but if he or she is not interested or capable to learn, the child will be oriented to a practically useful in the future, "simple" profession and will not be bombarded with "F’s". Not everyone must build planes, someone has to drive buses too.

Finns believe that this is one of the tasks of the secondary school – to determine whether a student should continue studies in high school or go to a vocational school. It should be noted that both ways are equally valued in the country.

The identification of every child’s aptitudes to a certain type of activities through tests and interviews is done by a school specialist – "teacher of the future."

In general, the process of learning in Finnish schools is soft, delicate, but it does not mean that you can "skip" the lessons. Attendance control is at school is mandatory. All missed lessons will be "sat through" in the literal sense. For example, for a student of 6th grade, the teacher can find a "window" in the time-table and send him of her to a lesson in 2nd grade: sit and think about life.  If you do not perform tasks, do not work in the classroom, no one will call your parents, threaten, offend you, accusing of mental disability or laziness. If parents are not concerned about their child’s education, he or she will not pass to the next grade.

Staying in the same grade for the second year in Finland is not a disgrace, especially after grade 9. Adulthood takes serious preparation, therefore in Finnish schools there is the additional (optional) 10th grade.

7. Independence

Finns believe that school should teach children the most important thing – an independent successful life in the future. So, they teach them to think and gain knowledge independently. A teacher does not explain the topic – everything is in the books. The important thing is not to memorize formulas, but to know how to use manuals, text, web, calculator – the necessary resources to solve current problems.

Also school teachers do not intervene in students’ conflicts, enabling them to prepare for life situations comprehensively and develop the ability to fend for themselves.

So, this is the Finnish secondary education in a nutshell. Perhaps, someone may think it is wrong. Finns do not claim to be ideal, even the best things can have flaws. They are constantly researching how their school system responds to changes taking place in the society. For example, currently, they are preparing reforms that involve division of mathematics into algebra and geometry and increasing teaching hours on it, and teaching literature and social sciences as separate subjects.

But Finnish school certainly does the most important job. Their children do not scream at night from nervous strain, do not wish to grow up early, do not hate school, do not torment themselves and the whole family, preparing for the next exam. Calm, sensible and happy, they read books, watch movies without translation into Finnish language, play computer games, ride on roller skates, bicycles, motorcycles, make music, write theater plays, sing. They enjoy life. And, in between all that, they still have time to study.

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