Finland Primary Schools
Finland's 15-year-olds consistently rank at or near the top in math, science and literacy Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests. Those that make the assumption that these students spend more time in school at a young age would be wrong. Their students do the least number of class hours per week compared to nations around the world. Children do not begin school until they are seven. However, from the age of 8 months all Finnish childen have access to daycare and fullday kindergarten. In Finland teaching is a high status career that requires a master's degree.
The focus of Finland school is to learn how to learn. Where North American students would study reading and math, Finnish students focus on materials based curriculum. Instead they learn those subjects through the study of nature and life. Teachers follow a core curriculum but have autonomy in delivery and choice of learning materials. Using differentiated instruction, teachers devise personalized curriculum for different learners. Because many teachers stay at their schools long term, students come to know their teachers long term. Students call teachers by their first names creating a more informal relationship. (Jimenez, 2009)
During primary grades assessment may be verbal rather than graded and most students learn three to four different languages. From grade three on at least 30% of the students learning is collaborative. Students do not have personal desks, they are used to grouping and pairing and playing differing roles in groups from chair to secretary to participant. Finnish schools are open and transparent. Any parent can come into a classroom at anytime.
What Finland has created is a culture of learning for everyone. Educators from around the world go to Finland to study their success. Unlike North America, Finland has little immigration and is not racially diverse. Read more about Finland, the "rock stars of education" in this Time April 11, 2011 article, Education Success: Finland vs Tiger Mother, Asia Model
To watch an interesting elluminate session with leaders from Finnish schools and two innovative American schools see Transforming the Learning Environment: Leveraging Learning Communities: A Finland & American Perspective
Next up, see High Tech High