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What can we learn from Finland?

Classroom Relationships
Rather than huge scale schools and classrooms, like we see in the UK and the states, the learning experience is a personal one. Most educational establishments are so small that teachers know every student. In the majority of schools, science classes are limited to 16 students so that practical’s can be conducted every day. All students are taught in the same classrooms, regardless of ability, so they can share knowledge.

What to take away from this?
Smaller groups make it easier for your students to learn and to engage. Class sizes can't always be regulated, but you can get to know your students on an individual level. Understanding individual needs, as opposed to addressing the class as a whole is half the battle.

Going against the grain
In Finland, attending school isn’t compulsory until the age of seven. The theory being “students learn better when they are ready.” Despite the norm in many other countries, homework is kept to a minimum and there is just one standardised test in Finland, taken when students are 16. The Finnish have no interest in competition between schools, they simply want what’s best for the students.

What to take away from this?
Exams and tests are a good indicator of student participation, standard of teaching and understanding, but placing extreme pressure on students is always beneficial. Encourage your students to destress around busy periods in the academic year and remind them that results aren’t always everything!

Work hard, play hard
Finnish students are encouraged from an early age to play outdoors and be physically active, it is believed to enhance their overall creativity. Primary school students get an average of 75 minutes of outdoor play every day. Compared to the dismal statistic that found 74% of British children spent less than 60 minutes playing outside each day. It’s all a case of learning through play which contributes towards the ethos: “prepare children to learn how to learn, not how to take a test.”

What to take away from this?

Rather than going straight from playground to classroom, take some time to ask about what students did on their break. Why not try linking playtime to a particular subject that you’re focusing on?

Teacher time
We are constantly thrown headlines of UK teachers being underpaid and understaffed. The UK government struggle to encourage young people to choose a career in teaching, due to the lack of support, immense pressure and poor pay. Dealing with unbearably heavy workloads and ’60 hour weeks’ it’s no surprise our teachers feel undervalued. In comparison, all teachers in Finland are chosen from the top 10% of graduates, they are given sustained support and are awarded the same status as doctors and lawyers! As teachers have power to design learning plans and are amply staffed, the average teacher spends just 4 hours a day in the classroom. They have approximately 2 hours a week for personal development which is often used for reflection and classroom prep.

What to take away from this
Balancing a heavy workload and delivering engaging lessons isn’t always easy. The curriculum system needs to respect individual styles of teaching and encourage creativity. It directly impacts student’s ability to learn and retain information. 

If you’re not convinced already, check out these facts!

Finnish graduates are the 2nd highest performing in the world, just behind Japan

91% of Finns graduate from high school

The school system is 100% state funded

The education gap in Finland is one of the smallest in the world

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