Over the past year we have been researching what makes Finland such an inspiration in education around the world.
Since the year 2000 Finland has performed progressively well, culminating in gaining the best results in 2006 in the International PISA tests in Mathematics, Science and Reading.
Not only that, but Finland as a nation, continues to gain the accolade of being the Happiest Nation on Earth, gaining first spot in the 2018 World Happiness Report. The country vaulted from fifth place to the top of the rankings this year.
The country has been ranked the most stable, the safest and best governed country in the world. It is also among the least corrupt and the most socially progressive. Its police are the world’s most trusted and its banks the soundest.
“That Finland is the top scorer is remarkable,” said Meik Wiking of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark. “GDP per capita in Finland is lower than its neighbouring Nordic countries and is much lower than that of the US. The Finns are good at converting wealth into wellbeing.
How Have They Accomplished This?
The National Goals for Basic Education revolves around a child’s development as a human being and as a citizen, ensuring that the key factors such as thinking and learning to learn, looking after oneself, cultural competence, multiliteracy and sustainability are included in their development.
In all areas of education in Finland, including Early Childhood Education, the focus remains on children developing:
Creative and critical thinking
Reflecting on ones strengths and weaknesses
Knowing oneself as a student
Finding the best ways to learn
Taking an active part in society
Actually using the things you’ve learnt
Knowing how to learn more.
The job of a Finnish Early Childhood teacher is twofold.
Firstly to create a team, particularly with an emphasis on Social and Emotional Skills.
Secondly to develop critical thinking in the children through Phenomenon Based Learning. This type of learning, also seen in Reggio Emilia inspired projects uses methods based on research, experimenting and problem solving to enable learning and lead to critical and creative thinking.
Forest Kindergartens are also very popular in Finland (as they are in most of Europe), with children based in Forests for the majority of their day. These kindergartens are highly sought after, with many families disappointed every year to gain a space in one.
Whilst the emphasis is still on free play, self help skills, social and emotional development, there is still literacy everywhere (through the use of games, letters, crafts) throughout the day.
On a trip to Finland in 2018 I asked the Forest Kindergarten teacher “How would you describe the impact of the Forest School on children?”
He responded that they are the following:
More aware of space / better special awareness
Greater awareness of nature