Taking education reform seriously since the 1970s, Finland has climbed the international education ratings by betting on highly competent teachers, the importance of early childhood education, decentralized administration that gives local schools the autonomy to address local needs, and a uniform, free (including meals, transportation and school materials) education for all students. Finnish students score higher than most of their peers on international assessment tests, despite having minimal homework and testing, and a curriculum emphasizing on music, the arts, and outdoor activities.

In its latest efforts to keep improving the curriculum and making its pupils more equipped to succeed in the modern world, Finland has rethought the concept of a subject for its basic schools (students aged 7 to 16). With its new National Curriculum Framework 2016 (NCF), Finland emphasizes the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to education and introduces the concept of “phenomenon-based” teaching, which will result in classes on broader topics such as European Union, Climate Change, Community.

Schools across the country will have to introduce at least one such class or project during the school year. One of the most innovative parts of the NCF is that students must be involved in the planning of phenomenon-based study periods and that they must have voice in assessing what they have learned from it.

With this approach students will have to apply a variety of skills and knowledge in a single class, which will give them a much clearer understanding of the complexity of the world. As Ms Irmeli Halinen, Head of curriculum development with Finnish National Board of Education explains:

“We are often asked why improve the system that has been ranked as top quality in the world. But the answer is: because the world is changing. We have to think and rethink everything connected to school. We also have to understand that competencies needed in society and in working life have changed.” 


Photo: Phillipe Put (Flickr)