Educators around the world have been making expeditions to Finland to learn the secrets of the nation’s top performing students. Finnish students consistently test at the top on international tests, like the PISA. They also report being happy, are less frequently tested and have more time for play. Finland has the benefit of a strong social welfare system and high quality of life, but very few private schools. With all these variables currently in its favor, the Finns are taking dramatic steps in changing its education system by overhauling how high school is taught. Students will go from the traditional way of learning by subjects, to learning by topics, according to The Independent. The transition hasn’t been without its tensions.
Teaching by topic will start in Helsinki high schools and then spread to the rest of the country. At the core of this topic-specific technique will be co-teaching by educators and more collaboration amongst students. According to The Independent:
“Subject-specific lessons – an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon – are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city’s upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call “phenomenon” teaching – or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.”
For years, Finland has been the by-word for a successful education system, perched at the top of international league tables for literacy and numeracy. Only far eastern countries such as Singapore and China outperform the Nordic nation in the influential Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings.
Finland flag image credit Tauno Tõhk/陶诺/Flickr