In May 2016, I had in my classroom German and English students besides my own students. Their teachers sat at the back of the classroom. After the lesson, they were astonished at my methods. I taught these 5th graders the bases of statistics in English.
The students sat in groups and instantly started to compile statistics. The groups gathered information from their classmates, for example: how many siblings they had, how each one of them had come to school that day and the colours of their eyes.
The success of the Finnish education system has been analysed abroad and here in Finland. It has been noted that our strengths include; respect of the teaching profession, flexibility of the curriculum, teachers’ high level of education and autonomy of teaching methods, free education, student’s welfare, free school meals and school transportation.
Secrets to success
1. In our society education is still appreciated. This is reflected in the high volume of people who apply to join the profession. For example the Helsinki University takes 120 applicants yearly. In 2015, there were 1,832 applicants, 120 were chosen. Under 10% of the whole amount. The teachers have Masters degrees in various subjects. In salary, teachers are the middle class. The salary increases by the working years. Also, teachers can achieve bonuses, which are granted by the principal for a job well done.
2. Flexibility with the curriculum means that I know which content belongs to different year classes and what my students are meant to learn during the year. With my colleagues, we can plan and carry out study modules in the best way based on our judgments. We take notice of the current local events. We can also arrange the core content, so it supports the learning. The curriculum isn’t a list of things to do. It’s a guideline for our planning and execution.
3. I have a full autonomy in teaching. I can choose the materials and teaching methods myself. Usually, the teachers collaborate in choosing the study books. However, I can still teach the way I want to, even with my own material. There are no school inspectors or national tests. I observe the learning daily. The students have many breaks during the day. They go out and play together in the schoolyard. I can make my own tests collaborate with a colleague on tests. We don’t give much homework. Childhood is about being together with your family and friends and getting a lot of active exercise outside. The principals have conversations with teachers where they discuss and plan. I have room to be creative in my work!
4. To study is free. This gives everyone an equal opportunity to education. The students have a chance to go on with their studies all the way to the university if they want to. We don’t have term fees! The children get free books and they get a free warm meal daily. The schools also have a school nurse who makes health checkups yearly and helps the students with their physical issues.
5. We also help the students in many different ways. The teachers observe students’ progress and if a learning difficulty appears, the student will get special tutoring.
Instead of control, competition, stress, standardised testing and the ranking list of schools, we have warm relations with students, collaboration with colleagues. We get highly professional, teacher-led encouragement and assessment. Our approach is truly different from the other school systems I have read about in other countries globally.
I will end with this quote, “If you look closely and open your mind, you may see the School of Tomorrow.” – William Doyle
By Maarit Rossi
Mrs. Rossi is a Math teacher, principal and CEO of Paths to Math Ltd. She was one of the top 10 finalists in Global Teacher Prize 2016. She is one of the Top Teacher Bloggers in The Global Search for Education by C M Rubin. Twitter: @pathstomath & www.pathstomath.com