Finland is about to reform their education system drastically. Finland has been one of the leading countries for a successful education system that has been leading international league tables for literacy and numeracy. In tests for the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), Finland has been in the top three rankings with only Singapore and China being able to compete with the Scandinavian country.
The country’s education committee plans to change the teaching subjects with topics, in order to prepare students better for their work life. This massive change would need a full rewrite of the current curriculum for all classes.
“This is going to be a big change in education in Finland that we’re just beginning. We have to make the changes in education that are necessary for industry and modern society,” said Liisa Pohjolainen, who is in charge of youth and adult education in Helsinki, in an interview with the British magazine Independent.
In Finland’s capital, Helsinki, there are already test runs of the system for upper schools. The topics that the country calls “phenomenon” combine multiple subjects. For example, one topic that can be taught crossing multiple subjects is the European Union. In this topic, the students will learn a mix out of economics, history, languages, and geography.
In addition, the students will learn better communication skills when working in groups with their classmates. Through the interactive group work, a student will no longer be passively sitting there and listening to the lecture of the teacher.
“We really need a rethinking of education and a redesigning of our system, so it prepares our children for the future with the skills that are needed for today and tomorrow. There are schools that are teaching in the old fashioned way which was of benefit in the beginnings of the 1900s – but the needs are not the same and we need something fit for the 21st century,” said Helsinki’s education manager, Marjo Kyllonen, in an interview with the Independent magazine.
Early data from the schools that adapted the topic based teaching approach have shown a positive outcome in the students’ results. The head of Finland’s education system is pushing the new approach to be applied in more schools across the country and training teachers to apply the new system.
Not only in the higher school levels is Finland revolutionizing education, but also in the pre-school and elementary school sector. The country is leading in a “playful” learning approach that should encourage students to learn in a happy, safe, and inspiring environment. In a case study that was done by the Independent, the journalists were fascinated by kids running through the corridors, while learning about different parts of Africa or kids that move around a European map on the whiteboard, while speaking a foreign language.
The big question is how other countries, like the United States, will react to Finland’s new approach when it continues to show further success in the PISA tests that are published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The education system in the United States has its roots in 1903 when John D. Rockefeller founded the General Education Board. The education board provided a standardized learning curriculum that was not designed to encourage critical thinking, but rather create a reliable, predictable, and obedient citizen, according to Thrive movement.
This education dated back to the industrial age and was designed to train employees for that age. Today, however, people live in the information age and different skills are required for people to be successful in today’s society. This conflicts with the common core and an outdated education system. According to Forbes magazine, it required communication and people skills to be successful in the current marketplace.
Only time will tell whether the United States and other western countries will be able to adjust and change their education system for the better. The education of today shapes the future of a country.