What can be learned from Finland’s school system?

The Finnish school system is regularly found atop the PISA ratings each year, and has become the envy of educators around the world.

This success is the sum of a many working parts, which include support from the government and teacher training programs. There is much to be gleaned from the Finnish school system, such as how it fundamentally embraces the growth mindset way of teaching. For British teachers looking for ways to reduce the attainment gap, speak to student creativity and generally look for ways to improve or alter teaching methods, the Finnish model could be worthy of examination.

College students studying together in a library

Finnish schools and teaching styles – how do they differ to the UK?

Firstly, the process to become a teacher is longer in Finland.

A highly-respected vocation, teaching is regarding among one of the most important jobs an individual can do. This high regard is reflected in the training and qualifications required; to teach primary school, an individual must complete a five-year master’s degree, and obtain hands-on, in-class practical experience.

One of the key differences between the UK schools system and that of Finland lies in standardised testing – there isn’t any. The amount of external pressures on UK schools when it comes to anything from classroom management to exam prep and results is huge, but this is virtually non-existent now in Finland. In the early 1990s, school inspections were scrapped, as were standardised tests and government control over curriculum. This provides schools and teachers with complete autonomy over everything from classroom management strategies to lesson planning.

With no mandatory curriculum to adhere to, teachers are free to plan their own lessons, and to teach how they want to teach. School days are far shorter in Finland too – days typically start around 9.30am/10am and finish around 3pm. This five-hour school day can be mapped out to include a variety of lessons, from practical education ideal for those planning on entering the workforce after school, to more academic subjects for those who plan to attend university.

The Finnish curriculum and growth mindset activities

As teachers are free to plan lessons as they please, they are able to include things like music, drawing, dance, and other creative subjects that can often be paid less attention in UK schools.

The inclusion of these growth mindset activities can help students develop numerous skills, and can be especially advantageous to children hailing from poorer economic backgrounds. When children start school at seven years old, they are not placed into different streams, but are all taught in the same class. It can often be the case that if there are obvious skill gaps or children that need extra attention or help that two teachers will tend to the class. In many instances, the same teacher will move with the class throughout their primary school education, providing consistency and ongoing support.