Schools have long been criticised by parents for putting undue pressure on children. Homework in junior school, exams from the age of 11 and an increased emphasis on high achieving has, according to some, overshadowed what it means to be a child. Gone are the days when children didn’t have a care in the world. Now, it seems, it is more important than ever to perform well academically by whatever means. This has resulted in more and more homework and more assessments and league tables for both schools and pupils. But is this the right way to go about pushing children? According to Finland, that answer is a firm ‘no’!
Finland has many processes that are admired the world over; the baby box for example, where every child, no matter what their family’s income, starts out ‘equal’ in the same ‘box’ with a range of products that are considered ‘vital’ for their first few weeks, is one of the most famous, and as a result, has been adopted further afield. However the ideal that is currently making the headlines is their commitment to children – not babies. The forward-thinking country has taken a rather liberal view of schooling in order to give children back their lives. The country now boasts shorter school days and has almost abolished homework for its students, yet has some of the best academic results in the world. Add that together with longer summer holidays, of around 10 or 11 weeks, and the fact that children don’t have to start school until they are 7 years old, and the whole school process seems a lot nicer for children.
So exactly how much better is Finland’s school performance than our native UK?
The international Pisa tests are the best gauge for this, and the results, despite Finland offering children less learning time overall, perform a significant amount better than the UK. The UK is 23rd when it comes to reading, and this compares to Finland’s positioning of sixth, while the UK stands in 26th place for maths, which is a whole 14 places lower than our Finnish rivals.
This rather ‘holistic’ approach to education is designed to offer parents a family-friendly approach. There is no culture of private education, while there is very little homework when compared to schools in the UK. Instead, the system works on ‘trust’; parents trust the schools to make the right decisions when it comes to delivering a good education within the set hours, and the teachers trust parents to monitor children’s progress and give them added support should they need it.
This, in comparison to the UK system, could not be further apart. Finland only has one set of exams throughout the academic year – right at the end, whereas the UK’s approach has been one of multiple league tables, checklists, tests and scores. However the figures do not lie – this system is not working. And in order to become a world-leading player in the education industry, it needs to change. And following Finland’s lead could be the best way to do this.
What do you think to Finland’s approach?