finnish education system

The Finnish education system has enjoyed a lot of ‘buzz’ … and for good reason too. It routinely outperforms the UK, USA and Australia in Maths, Reading and Science and continually ranks highly on the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment).

People may fire out the simple facts such as; shorter schools days and no standardised testing, but the truth is that the system is based on several core principles with the first and most important that equal access to education is a constitutional right to all. Another principle is that the students can cultivate and choose their path that will never lead to a dead end.

In this first article I will look at Early Childhood Education, before moving on to Basic Education, Upper Secondary Education and Higher Education over the course of 3 blogs.

Early Childhood Education in the Finnish Education System

In Early Years the Finnish Education System is essentially based on the concept of learning through play, but let us delve a little bit into the social aspects and culture in Finland:

Parents get state-sponsored maternity leave, a maternity grant, and even a “baby care box” that doubles into a cot upon the birth of the child that helps parents cope with those first few weeks.

Finnish children are not required to go to school until age 6, where they enter pre-primary education. This allows parents to spend a greater amount of time with their child before compulsory schooling begins. However 80% of parents, with children aged 3 to 5, choose an expansive early childhood education and care (ECEC) programme that adopts a “learning through play” model that also aims to promote a “balanced growth”. There is a heavily subsidised cost for this with parents footing about 14% of the bill, however it does depend on household income and the number of children in the family.

The main aim is not explicitly “education” in the normal sense of the word but rather the promotion of the health and wellbeing of every child. This early development helps children to develop good social habits, learn how to make friends and respect other whilst teaching children how to dress themselves competently. There is an emphasis in pre-school on “the joy of learning”, language enrichment, communication and of course physical education, of which there is at least 90 minutes per day of. The main goal is to make sure children are happy and responsible individuals.

Some parents are sceptical when it comes to the phase “play-based”. This skepticism is borne out of schools who market play but in reality don’t conduct it in the correct way. In the Finnish education system great care is taken to plan not just what play takes place but how to assess children’s play. Within the system there is a mix of free play and teacher directed play and the children’s development is continually evaluated and monitored. Play is not random.

What qualities are developed through play, I hear you ask… well… qualities such as increased attention span, perseverance, concentration and problem solving. All of which, by the way, are pre cursors and strong predictors of academic success. The research and evidence is there that high quality early years play-based learning not only enriched educational development but it also boosts attainment in children from disadvantaged backgrounds who do not possess capital in the same way as perhaps their wealthier peers.

In the next blog we will dive into the the next stage of the Finnish education system, Basic Education.

GSE has recently partnered with New Nordic School as we both look to transform education across the world. Read our announcement here.

Who is Global Services in Education (GSE)

Global Services in Education is a company led by education experts. They are proven education leaders who know how to set up and manage international schools. GSE can lead the project from the initial idea to set up and full management. Kindergarten, Primary, Middle and High School, Universities and Adult education.

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