Taking education reform seriously since the 1970s, Finland has climbed the international education ratings by doing several things: 1) it bets on highly competent teachers, 2) it recognizes the huge importance of early childhood education, 3) it gives local schools the autonomy to address local needs by decentralizing administration, 4) it guarantees a uniform and free (including meals, transportation and school materials) education for all students. As a result, Finnish students score higher than most of their peers on international assessment tests, despite peculiarities like having minimal homework and tests, and also a curriculum that puts a big emphasis 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.
Phenomenon-based teaching will teach students how to apply a variety of skills and knowledge in a single class. This approach resembles much more closely real-life problem solving and will give pupils a more clear understanding of the complexity of the world.
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.
Finland's constant strive towards innovating and improving on its educational system is truly commendable. 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)