As you may be aware, Finland is widely acclaimed as one of the most progressive and impactful education systems in the world, having inverted many of the old paradigms of learning, embraced outdoor, hands-on discovery learning environments and utilised highly-qualified educators to deliver creative and responsive lessons.
Finland has implemented a number of holistic reforms that have revolutionised their education system. Curriculum has moved away from rigorous, structured academia in the primary years towards a focus on overall child well-being and joy.
This includes a departure from standardised testing and competitive educational mindsets. Professor Pasi Sahlberg highlights the emphasis on cooperation not competition amongst peers, quoting from writer Samuli Paronen “Real winners do not compete”. This approach has perpetuated a cutting-edge schooling system that is ranking high on the world stage.
Finnish schools are noted for their more relaxed approach to the school day, with later start times and less rigorous class-schedules. Children are given more outdoor free time, rain, hail or shine, and there is significant focus on letting ‘kids be kids’ in their engagement with the natural world. There is a great emphasis in the early years on learning through play, and this mindset remains until high school.
Finnish parents and teachers agree on several mantras rarely heard in Australian schools: “Let children be children” and “The work of a child is to play” (Quoted from Pasi Sahlberg’s blogpost titled ‘To Really Learn Our Children Need the Power of Play’). This refocuses learning to be dominated by child-led curiosity, which is inherent within every child, allowing education to be a joy that is carried well into adulthood.
To manifest this on an individual level learners are activated as autonomous agents in their own education, creating a personalized and inclusive schooling environment. From the early years onwards, ‘learners have an active role in what and how they learn and truly hold a key to unlocking their own potential’ (Education Finland).
At Green Mountain Community School initiative, we are inspired to implement many of the lessons from Finnish schools as part of our overall holistic, experiential and child-led approach to learning.