Schools here are happy places where children, teachers and parents are seen smiling
On a cold morning, a bunch of kindergarteners were seen playing in the snow just outside the school, under the watchful supervision of their teacher. One child, attempting to climb onto a swing, fell flat on his face, on a heap of snow. The teacher went next to him and waited – for a few moments, neither said anything. Then, the teacher gently asked the child if he needed help. The child refused, and pulled himself up.
This scene is typical of Finnish schools in many ways. The results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey in the last decade or so have led to the Finnish school education system receiving a lot of attention from across the world.
Several delegations of educators from across the world visit Finnish schools to learn from them. EZ Vidya organized a delegation of 12 educators from across the country on a mission to learn from schools in Finland, a first of its kind from India. And indeed, the educators had a lot to learn from Finnish schools.
Like chalk and cheese
At first sight, there seem to be a lot of contrasts – the two countries are socially, politically and economically as distinct as chalk and cheese. Almost all of the schools in Finland are run by the government. Education is compulsory and free.
There is a lot of stress on providing equal opportunities in education to all students, irrespective of domicile, gender, socio-economic status or even native language. There are no ‘elite’ schools; the nearest school is simply assumed to be the best school. Invariably, it is, as all schools are deemed to be equally good.
Educationally too, the differences are stark. All schools instruct their students in Finnish or Swedish, the two official languages of Finland. Beyond the ‘basic education’, which lasts up to 9 years, students choose between vocational or academic streams and both provide varied opportunities for furthering one’s career.
Even in basic education, there is significant time spent outdoors, in sports, music and trades as such craft, carpentry, cookery etc.
When one looks beyond these differences, one uncovers some critical aspects that the delegation picked up as learning from the Finnish schools.
For one, schools seem like happy places. Everyone, from the teachers to the support staff to parents and most importantly, the students, are seen to be smiling. Classrooms are democratic, students are free to discuss and pose questions.
The physical ambience is vibrant with students’ work and simple, inexpensive display material that reflects what is being learnt.
The student-teacher equation
Teachers and students share a very cordial relationship; teachers are addressed by their first names. Teaching is a respected profession and an aspiration for many youngsters. Every teacher, from kindergarten to upper primary schools, must necessarily undergo university level education. Clearly, the Finnish invest a lot of time and resources in training their teachers.
Chitra Ravi is the founder and CEO of EZ Vidya
There are no ‘elite’ schools; the nearest school is simply assumed to be the best school.
Have your say
How different would you say is the system in India? Do you think the Finnish system of education would work here? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org (Subject: Finnish schools)