Finland Isn't Replacing Traditional School Subjects With “Topics” Anymore
Home to the Father Christmas, Finland is really blessed that its educators are gutsy and farsighted to reform the current education system and take decisions that no other country can.
Known for its successful education system, Finland has been among the table toppers for the performance the country’s students exhibit in the international arena. Very recently, there was a buzz in the international media that Finland is replacing the teaching of classical school subjects such as Mathematics and History with a broader project based format, called “Topics”.
The first half of the story is wrong while the other half isn’t. There are certain reforms which will be implemented in the curriculum of the school students of the country. Yet, the schools will continue to teach history, literature, art and science.
With “topics” being taught, the students will now have to think and evolve in an interdisciplinary way. We often question ourselves that why we are supposed to learn things of little or no interest to us. With this basic reform, students will learn broader topics such as climate change, community service, European Union, Finland’s independence, etc. which will give them a wider insight into the actual matter, not limited only to the syllabus.
The two most important points about Finnish education system are that the education governance is highly decentralised and the National Curriculum Framework allows the educators to adopt methods that can make learning easier and comprehensive.
This new teaching methodology, also known as Phenomenon-based learning was introduced in August 2016. National Curriculum Framework is a binding document describing the goals of schooling, principles of teaching and guidelines for the educators. Yet, the best part is that the teachers can still implement their own teaching methodology of the “topics” which constituted the core of the NCF.
All Finnish schools should have at least an extended class of multi-disciplinary, phenomenon-based teaching introduced into their curriculum for all students in the range of seven to sixteen years of age. The length of the extended class period is decided by schools themselves. The national capital and the largest local school system, Helsinki has decided to require two such yearly periods that must include all subjects and all students in every school in town.
Liisa Pohjolainen, in-charge of youth and adult education in Helsinki said, “This is going to be a big change in education in Finland that we’re just beginning”.
Pasi Silander, the city’s development manager, explained: “What we need now is a different kind of education to prepare people for working life. Young people use quite advanced computers. In the past, the banks had lots of bank clerks totting up figures but now that has totally changed. We, therefore, have to make the changes in education that are necessary for industry and modern society.”
Marjo Kyllonen, the education manager of Helsinki who presented her blueprint for change to the council, said: “It is not only Helsinki but the whole of Finland embracing the change. 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.”
The phenomenon based learning will definitely change the way students acquire knowledge. Rather than following the traditional approach of mugging up the syllabus, students will learn topics in a more interesting manner. In recent international tests, the scores of the Finnish students have deteriorated considerably, yet the educators focus on implementing radical teaching approach because they believe that schools should teach what we actually need in our life. Finland, you are a true inspiration to nations where the traditional teaching exists, just good enough to produce clerks. Congratulations on taking such a bold move, Finland!