Tough teacher, a fear to be asked at the blackboard, infinite classes of abhorrent physics, a school diary that have to be shown to parents… Sounds similar? Unfortunately, for the most of our citizens this is a portrait of their schools. I also considered these “attributes” as inevitable for all school systems until the recent week when I got acquainted with the Finnish system. The more you read about it, the more it sounds impossible. Check it out and you will understand what I am talking about:
First, no grades. Yes, that sounds impossible, but it is a reality for the Finnish kids: till the 3rd grade there are no grades at all. Then, till the 7th grade children will be assessed by the verbal rating scale.
Second, no homework. Here I experienced something we call “razryv shablona” on russian slang or cultural shock, if you wish. The amount of homework is reduced as much as possible; children should have time for rest – after all, they are kids and their childhood should be full of game hours, not hours of staying late studying. Here I would like to mention that by my own observations for the last 10 years the workload of Kazakhstani pupils have raised dramatically – schools compete in number of extracurricular courses and homework, parents burden their children with additional lessons of music, karate, and English classes. My nieces come home at 7 pm, have a supper and then study till 12 am.
Third, individuality. Do you remember struggling with physics/mathematics/literature(change to any course you want)? I am more than sure that you also had courses that you really liked. Now imagine that your individual curriculum is built based on your preferences and extend this practice towards ALL pupils. Congratulations, you got the Finnish individual approach of building curriculum for their children.
Fourth, diversity. Maybe it is not the most impressive one, but I was really envy reading that. Starting from the 4th grade, there is a variety of elective courses that students can choose based on their own preferences and almost always it includes lessons of playing on musical instruments. Till the end of the school life, students will try all possible instruments from piano till double-bass.
Fifth, equality. All schools have the same conditions, equipment, funding and quality. All students are treated equal – no differentiation by academic standing or physical disabilities. All parents are equal because teachers never know their social status or profession.
Impressive? Oh yeah, more than that. It is worth to mention that this is just a small part. I believe that you have experienced the same mix of admiration, unbelief, and curiosity as I had. But besides these feelings did you notice a small sense of envy? What could happen if we were taught in the system like that? May be you would have been a dancer or artist now? We will never get an answer. But this sense is a signal for us, as future policy makers, to think. And yes, as soon as I have an opportunity, I will go to Finland to check myself their incredible education system. Will you join me?
- Kupiainen, S., Hautamaiki, J., Kurjalainen, T.(2008). TheFinnish Education System and PISA. Report http://www.oxydiane.net/IMG/pdf_opm46.pdf
- Moore, T.(2008, April). Finnish Education System. Research Paper 46(08). http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/globalassets/documents/raise/publications/2008/education/4608.pdf
- Seven Principles of Finnish Education. Retrieved from: http://www.adme.ru/zhizn-nauka/7-principov-finskogo-obrazovaniya-838510/