Why Does Finland Have Such A Highly Rated Education System?

As countries like the UK and the US struggle to fund their state school systems, there are lessons to be learned from Finland. Finland may be small, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in a truly amazing education system that outperforms those in many of the world’s biggest and more densely populated countries. Why then, you might ask, is the Finnish education system so successful? TaskSpace takes a look…

Children Don't Start School Until 7

It may seem crazy in a country where education is considered so vital, that children don’t even start school until they are 7. Considering that pupils in other countries start school as early as 4 and 5, you’d think they’d have an advantage over Finnish children. That would seem to be flawed reasoning. By allowing children more time to enjoy being children and playing, being with their families – it actually helps to prepare them better for school life.

Topics, Not Subjects

The education system in Finland eschews traditionally taught subjects like biology, geography and even mathematics. Instead, replacing them with topics. The idea being to train intellectually curious minds to form their own unique understanding of a particular topic. For example, the topic of ‘water’ will cover geographical, historical, mathematical and scientific ground – but it’s the topic, not the subject, that is centre stage.

Finland Is Big On Equality and Co-operation

Finland tackles inequality head on and believes that co-operation is more important than competition. So, there is no pressure or standardised testing. No streaming or grouping children together based on ability. All children are treated as intellectual equals.

Shorter School Days

There have been many arguments in the past, both in the UK and the US, that the average school day is far too long and counter-productive for getting the best out of students. Based on the performance of Finland’s school pupils, it would appear that there is evidence to support this argument. In Finland, the school week is a maximum of 20 hours, meaning that every day, Finnish children spend a maximum of four hours every day in school. Which is only more impressive when you realise that this includes their lunch break.

A 'How To Learn' Approach Is Used

Rather than following the dated education model that focuses on learning specific content and being able to memorise it; schools in Finland use a ‘how to learn’ approach. This encourages children to understand the learning process and acquire the skills to build knowledge in any given subject, both inside and outside of school. Put simply, as well as being taught what to learn, they are also taught how to learn.

Very Little Homework

In Finland, there is a mutual trust shared between parents and teachers. Parents presume that if teachers are doing their job properly, they have covered a majority of the important stuff their children need to know during their school day, and additional work is generally seen as unnecessary. Instead of doing homework, time at home is kept free for children to enjoy with their family.

Finland Is Big On Experimentation

Finland has made a habit of listening to and acting upon new research. This creates an environment where experimentation is not just allowed but encouraged. Finnish teachers are allowed to establish mini-labs for trying out different styles of teaching. They then can keep what works and get rid of the things that don’t.

Students Learn At Least Two Foreign Languages

The Finnish believe in the power of communication. Most students, by the time they reach teenage years, are able to speak at least two foreign languages. The most popular languages are Swedish, Spanish, French, German and English.

Free University Education

In Finland, students do not have to pay any fees to attend university. In stark comparison the UK and the US, where young people routinely get themselves in thousands of pounds worth of debt. Doctoral, bachelor and even master degree programmes are subsidised by a combination of funds from the federal government and taxpayer’s money.

Teachers Are Very Highly Respected

In Finland, teachers are held in the same high regard as Doctors and Lawyers. Every teacher must achieve a masters degree before they can be employed by any school and the healthy respect for teachers exists in all parts of Finnish society, from both adults and children.

When you look at Finland’s education system in greater detail, it is easy to see why it is so successful. Children are allowed to be children. And when they actually start school they are not pressured to breaking point. Equally, teachers are given the freedom to teach, experiment and develop their teaching style – without being constantly pressured to improve grades.

Maybe it’s time we all learned a few lessons from Finland.