Finland’s education system is one of the best in the world. Finnish students consistently rank at the top of international testing, blowing American schoolkids out of the water. So why would they risk such a drastic change to their school system? After all, as my 9th grade English teacher taught me, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

National Government hands over control to local educators

Unlike other national education systems, Finland’s central government has little control over the material taught in each municipality. Instead, they make a framework that ensures all the schools will meet the standards of education, then let each school district decide how and what to teach their students. Finland has introduced a new curriculum framework that allows schools to ditch classic subjects like social studies, literature, and history, and develop a different kind of studies that students will find more stimulating and relevant.

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Skipping subjects, teaching issues instead

Called phenomenon-based teaching, the students will spend their days learning about current issues, such as climate change, the European Union, and local history. A key rule given by the national framework is that students must be allowed to collaborate with educators on deciding the content. Kids feel engaged and listened to like their voice matters. That helps them learn. Not all schools are making the switch; some educators still believe that structured subjects are the best way for students to learn.

International exam ranking plummeting due to new method

One side effect of the revolutionary method is that Finland’s legendary test scores are dropping(2). Is it worth it? Finnish parents and teachers say yes: school should prepare students for the real world they’ll inherit, that health and gained experience of students are more important than grades. That’s a value we can all learn from, even in a grades-driven system.

Pasi Sahlberg

He’s an expert on education reform, and he’s written several books about Finland’s system. Check out this lecture on what sets Finnish education apart from the rest of the globe:

Do you think ditching the conventional subjects and teaching kids issues, like climate change, local history, the current economy, and ongoing wars and injustices is a good idea?



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