Since the year 2000, when PISA evaluations have started, Finland has consistently ranked at the top of the international assessment test results. For over a decade, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), has become the world’s premier measuring tool for the quality, equity and efficiency of school systems in educating young people.
The Finnish strategy for achieving equality and performance in education has been focused on designing a publicly funded comprehensive school system offering all students uniform access to education. Schools seem to have a high degree of freedom to implement objectives set at national level and to develop their own innovative methods, in harmony with the skill set and interest of the student group they teach. This reflects the flexibility of the Finnish education system to mold on the individual student requirements in order to maximise efficiency and deliver optimal results.
In Finland, the average child begins school at the age of 7 and most children seem to develop social skills in pre-school while language is typically learned at home. Primary school students often stay with the same teacher for several years, making learning patterns easier to understand.
The new core curriculum for basic education implemented in 2016 brings forward a series of innovations, which emphasise collaborative classroom practices, where pupils may work with several teachers simultaneously during periods of phenomenon-based project studies. The Finnish National Board of Education has introduced compulsory multidisciplinary modules, in order to increase the dialogue between subjects and help students combine the knowledge and skills provided by different subjects to form meaningful ensembles. For example, students may be learning about different sources of energy, both renewable and fossil-based, while expressing through art what may happen in case the power had gone off in the classroom; thus, real life experience, thoughtful concepts and the arts are integrated into one module. This curricular novelty may pave the way for a gradual transition from traditional education to a more innovative form of education while the students continue to learn mathematics and science and all the other subjects in a more efficient way.
According to the new curriculum, several teachers may work simultaneously during periods of phenomenon-based project studies. All teachers who are a product of the Finnish education hold Master degrees and have been modeled in a system which encourages thinking, questioning, exploring and expanding one’s mind; therefore the transition to multidisciplinary modules may come natural to them.
The Finns seem to understand their education as a national treasure and aim to train the brain as a valuable resource. Education professionals appear to consider individual skill sets as unique and aim to offer all students equal chances to reach their top abilities rather than adopting a one-fits-all approach towards education. The schools aim to promote active involvement of pupils, meaningfulness, joy of learning and a school culture which enriches interaction between students and teachers. This curricular reform seems to be Finland’s answer to the changes happening in the surrounding world and their effect on children and young people. As schools may play an important role in defining the future of a society, a proactive approach to education may equip young people with the skills required to achieve their full potential, participate in an increasingly interconnected global economy, and ultimately convert better jobs into better lives.
As competitive skills may empower individuals to best prepare for everyday life, to make efficient decisions, and deal with different events, they may also provide the fundamental structure for building resilient communities and functional societies, by strengthening inclusiveness, collaboration, ethics, tolerance, and responsibility. As the students of today may be the leaders of tomorrow, modernising a country’s education system may result in better-prepared human resources and a more perceptive society.
What lessons may other countries learn from Finland’s education system?