When it comes to education, the Finnish know what they’re doing. The Scandinavian country has one of the top education systems in the world, and this year, ranked number one in literacy. So what’s Finland’s secret? It’s simple: more play, less work.
Here we take a look at what makes Finland’s education system so unique.
1. Kids don’t start formal school until age seven.
Before formal school, kids attend daycare where emphasis is put on creative play. There is also a strong focus on teaching children social skills and fostering their love of learning.
“Kindergarten in Finland doesn’t focus on preparing children for school academically,” says Finnish educational expert Pasi Sahlberg. “Instead the main goal is to make sure that the children are happy and responsible individuals.”
2. The first day of school is all fun and games.
Instead of jumping straight into lesson plans, Finnish schools like to keep things light on the first day with games, exercise and discussions about summer vacations. Some teachers even give their students a half-day off, The Atlantic reports. The idea is to ease students and teachers back into the school routine and make the transition as stress-free as possible.
3. Finland schools don’t have subjects.
Last year, Finland announced that their education system would be dropping subjects in favour of a new method known as “teaching by phenomenon.” This means that teachers focus on interdisciplinary topics so that students can combine different skills in one lesson, such as learning geography in French.
According to Finnish educator Sahlberg, Finland has been experimenting with this teaching method since the 1980s.
4. School days are short.
Finland has one of the shortest school days in the world, averaging about five hours. Kids are also given very little homework so that they have more time for free play. According to a 2014 study of 15-year-olds around the world, Finnish students spent 2.8 hours per week doing homework, compared to 6.1 hours American students spent.
5. Students get a 15-minute break every 45-minutes of class.
6. There are no standardized tests.
Students are only tested so teachers can see what they know. However, kids are required to take an exam in order to graduate from high school and enter university.
7. Teachers are as revered as doctors.
Finnish teachers are highly respected and educating them is put on par with training doctors. According to the Center on International Education Benchmarking (CIEB), only one in 10 students who apply to teachers programs are accepted.