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The 4 secrets of success of the Finnish school system

What happened in Finland for students to begin performing so well seemingly overnight? The education system in the small northern European country underwent a complete overhaul, a colossal process spanning several decades. But what are the secrets behind its resounding success?

Secret 1: Children get moving

In primary school, Finnish children enjoy 75 minutes of outdoor play every day. A 15-minute break is scheduled every 45 minutes. These frequent breaks allow them to expend their energy and remain alert for longer periods of time.

Secret 2: In the evening, everyone recharges their batteries

In Finland, both teachers and pupils alike get to rest in the evening. Children have little to no homework, and the tasks required of them are simple and do not require the help of a parent.

The same goes for teachers: their work day also ends at the last bell.

As a result, everyone can enjoy recreational activities or relaxation. And the next morning, everyone is well rested and alert.

Secret 3: Less is more

The minimalist design is popular in classrooms. The space is comfortable and uncluttered. As a result, the walls are not covered with posters of every kind. This pared-down décor undoubtedly fosters tranquility and concentration.

Secret 4: A strong sense of belonging

Everyone works hard to develop a sense of belonging between children and other young people, their teacher and their school. Here are some of their strategies:

  • A teacher can remain with the same group of children for over a year.
  • Teachers eat lunch with their pupils, forging personal ties by discussing various subjects.
  • Each year, the teacher and their students choose a class dream to fulfill: produce a music album, create a learning application, participate in a school camp, and more. The possibilities are plentiful.
  • Other interesting facts

  • Children start school at age 7, but non-compulsory kindergarten is offered at age 6.
  • All children are automatically enrolled in their neighbourhood’s public school, which eliminates social inequalities.
  • Education is free, including books, school transportation and lunch.
  • During their first 6 years of school, children have no grades on their report cards. Instead, they are given general feedback and advice.
  • All teachers, from preschool to college, hold a master's degree. But in order to reach this level, they must undergo a rigorous selection process. The proof: in 2010, just 660 students out of 6,600 were selected. Their training is paid for in full by the State. Throughout their career, teachers must devote 2 hours per week to their continuing education.
  • Every 3 years, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development holds the PISA test (Programme for International Student Assessment). This evaluation assesses the reading comprehension, mathematics and science skills of 15-year-old students in 70 countries. During the most recent test, in 2018, Finnish students rose to no less than 7th place!
  • I don’t know about you, but I would love to be a fly on the wall and watch how a typical school day unfolds in Finland. I have no doubt I would learn even more about this innovative school system.

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