Finland is known around the world for only few things; Nokia cell phones, angry birds, cold weather and lately for being the happiest nation on earth. But education is the thing that draws the most attention. Here in Brazil people seem to be very interested in it, so I will take the opportunity to tell you a bit more about it.
According to several studies over the years, Finland has extremely effective educational system, also often referred to as being the best in the world. To be honest, for me it’s hard to explain why, since I don’t have much to compare it with. I have studied in Czech Republic for 4 months this year, and that is my only experience of foreign education. So finding an objective point of view on education is difficult, and I can only discuss my own opinion and tell about facts I´ve experienced and learned during my pedagogical studies.
From my point of view, the excellence of our education depends very much on the teacher’s professionalism. Teachers are highly respected in Finland, and the education, status and even some teacher’s salary are comparable to lawyers and doctors. It is a very desirable occupation, so competition is hard and only 10% of applicants get through the entrance exams to the Universities of teacher education. The teacher education in Finland is considered to be one of the best ones in the world, with Master’s degree being the requirement for teaching. These highly educated and motivated teachers are controlled by the national core curriculum, but inside these frames, they have very high autonomy, being able to decide how they teach, which from my point of view increases their motivation even more.
The main objective of our government is to offer equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of residency, sex, economic situation or linguistic and cultural background, starting from the early childhood. Creating equal opportunities starts from the world famous maternity package (https://www.kela.fi/web/en/maternitypackage) and is followed by monthly child support until the age of 18.
Before elementary school children can attend to day-care, which is meant to play and grow, not to study. We believe that children should play and be children for as long as possible.
The school structure is similar to many other countries. Children enter the nearest elementary school at the age of 7 and go through 9 years of compulsory basic education. After that they can attend to high-school or vocational school, and later possibly university. A big difference to many countries is, that all of these are public schools, and free for everyone. And yes, this applies to the Universities too.
Public schools all have the same quality of teaching, so all students around the country get equal education. Later in high school and university, students get support money from the government, and if they live home, the amount of their parents salary affects to how much money the student gets. So students from poorer families get more help from the government. This makes attending to higher education possible for every child and teen regardless of their background. Schools also offer a free healthy lunch every day and a free health and dental care. Books and school transport are also free during basic education. This is all possible due to the high amount of taxes paid by the working citizens.
- Decision making
In Finland education is developed together with the Parliament, Ministry of Education and the National Board of education. The amazing thing is, that all the people who make decisions about education, has to have a master’s degree in education themselves. Also all reforms of education system and curriculum are repaired together in an open society. Mandatory subjects, teaching hours per subjects and the length of school days in each grade are decided nationally. However each city and school has a good chance to implicate education as they see best, in the limits of national curriculum. Education provider such as city organises and provides education.
- Motivating students
The basic principle of Finnish education is that learning should be inspiring, and students should feel the joy of learning. It is believed, that things you learn without joy are the things you first forget. It is also written in the new 2016 curriculum, that teachers should create different, inspiring, activating circumstances and environments for learning. Learning should start from the students, their motivation and will. Teacher is not pouring information to students head, but giving tools to learn and critically assess all the information they get. Students are encouraged to question the teachers and challenge them in questions they don’t have an answer to, and then together seek the answers for difficult questions. Teacher is not supposed to be this scary authority above students, but more like an adult that students can turn to with their worries and problems.
The idea of children getting to be children as long as possible is also included in the customs of schools. In basic education and high school, there is 15min break after every 45min class, or 30min break after every 90min class. In basic education this active recess time is spent outside playing. The meaning of physical activity is well understood in Finland. It supports physical, social and mental ability to function, and therefore it is vital for growing children. During recess time and classes, movement and activity is encouraged through active classes and x-breaks. It is also thought that learning should happen in school, not on free time, which is why the amount of homework is smaller than in many other countries.
Finnish education system has a long history in developing and it’s so complex, that one could write a book about it. That’s why this is where I will end this text. However, there is a lot of information I didn´t mention or explain more deeply, and that´s why I wanted to attach some links below, if you are interested in knowing more about the subject.
If you got this far, thank you for your interest!
The first link is to this amazing blog, comparing especially Central- and South America with Finland, which I found very interesting. http://www.strangerless.com/truth-finnish-education-system
Finnish national agency for education. http://www.oph.fi/english
Ministry of education and culture. http://minedu.fi/en/education-system