Finland’s education system is known as one of the best in the world and there is a lot we can learn.

Education systems vary across the world and it begs the question as to which is better. The latest reforms have transformed Finland’s education system into one that produces higher grades and happier children.

In Finland, the needs of the teachers and students are central to the education system. With their needs met first, they can provide the energy and focus needed to help children learn and progress through their studies.

There are a number of reasons why reforms to Finland’s education system have increased productivity.

Here are five things we can learn from their innovative educational system which would do wonders if integrated into our own.

1. No standardised testing

Standardized testing is the way in which most education systems test for comprehension and understanding. These tests lead to a lot of cramming and revision to pass one test which can then leave for students forgetting the information they crammed.

This way of testing doesn’t allow for actual holistic learning but just filling in the correct boxes and writing the correct buzz words. It is more of a memory test than a test of actual understanding.

In Finland, there are no standardized tests. All Finish students are graded on an individual basis and their progress is tracked overall by the Ministry of Education, much like a grade point average. Children can opt in for a voluntary test at the end of secondary education, but this is non-optional.

Overall, there is less pressure on students to perform at their best at one time of year. Instead, their progress and performance are monitored as they progress, so one off day doesn’t ruin everything.

2. Cooperation over competition

Most education systems take the approach to education as one big competition. Students are constantly competing against each other. This competition can cause major self-esteem issues when children do not achieve as well as their peers. It is also counterintuitive as when children get to adulthood. They must learn to cooperate with others and work as a team.

Finland educational system focusses on teamwork and cooperation from the outset. There are no lists of highest performing students and cooperation between students is actively encouraged.

This creates an environment of mutual respect and support, forming happier and well-rounded children. Teachers also perform better when there is less competition as they no longer need to worry about merit-based systems.

3. The basics are a priority

With the Western focus on test scores and performance, a lot of the basic needs of the children fall to the wayside. Schools forget about meals, healthcare, both physical and mental, and individualized guidance. These are basic palliative care needs that all children require and suffer without in many education systems which seek to save money.

Since the 80s, Finland’s education system has focused on making these basics their priority. Children receive better mental and physical support, which allows them to relax into their studies and achieve the best grades possible. By looking after children in respect to all their needs, the Finnish system is something we can all learn from.

4. Later starts

No one likes an early morning. We feel sluggish and have difficulty concentrating, unable to be productive until we’ve had a big cup of coffee. Unfortunately, children don’t have that luxury. The first few classes in the morning can be unproductive and children don’t tend to learn as well, concentrate as easily, or successfully retain information.

In the Finnish system, children start class a little bit later. With a little bit more sleep and time to get ready in the morning, children are more receptive to learning.

Longer breaks and longer periods of class give children the time they need to really intake knowledge without rushing. It means that children actually gain an understanding of the information rather than simply being able to repeat it.

5. Fewer teachers, fewer students

Big classes mean children don’t get as much one on one time with their teachers and can leave class feeling like a lecture. A constant rotation of teachers lacks consistency in the class structure. A combination of the two leaves children finding difficulty keeping up with their studies.

In the Finnish system, learning is very much created around the individual learner. Classes are smaller and teachers remain the same so as to keep consistency and support children in their learning. Teachers get to know pupils and their personal needs so that they can best support them in their learning and development.

School is difficult for children.

Although we look back and which we could return to easier tasks, it’s important to remember how we felt at the time. In Finland, children are getting complete attention and support from their schools to ensure that they really learn rather than learn to repeat.

These are things that, if incorporated into our own school systems, could really make the difference in children’s futures.


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