In September, Catherine and I will be travelling to Finland as part of a Teacher Professional Development Study Tour.
The purpose of the trip is to see how Finland has consistently maintained its position at the top of the PISA scale for education. It also provides opportunities to compare the differences between the Australian and Finnish education system and curriculum. The tour includes school visits and the chances to speak to Finnish teachers about their system which is very different from our own.
We are both quite excited about this trip and are looking forward to seeing how Finnish teachers achieve great results and what we can learn from them. We will certainly have lots to share about our experience when we return.
In the meantime, here are some key differences about the education system in Finland:
- Finland has the shortest school year of the Western World. There are shorter days with school typically starting between 9am or 9:45am and finishing around 2pm or 2:45pm. The average Finnish teacher teachers 600 hours annually, or about four lessons per day.
- Finnish children don’t receive formal academic training until the year they turn 7. Until then many children participate in play-based learning in day care. Compulsory schooling only lasts for nine years with 16-year-olds able to choose between Upper Secondary School, Vocational Education or entering the workforce.
- School children in Finland have multiple 15-minute outdoor free-play breaks throughout the day. These breaks happen regardless of the weather conditions. As the old Finnish saying goes: “There is no bad weather. Only inadequate clothing.”
- There are no national, standardised tests in Finland. Instead children are assessed continually by their teachers.
- School children in Finland will sometimes have the same teacher for three or all six of their primary school years. This allows teachers to better track students’ individual progress and gives consistency.
- Primary Education is the most competitive degree to get into in Finland. With only 10% of all applicants accepted. Not only are applicants required to be the best academically, but they also have to pass a series of interviews and personality tests.
- Educators, not bureaucrats or politicians, are considered the ultimate authorities on education. Teachers have reported an average of five or six emails a semester from parents as there is a high level of trust in Finnish teachers and their ability to do their job.