The Scandinavian countries are among the richest in Europe and also offer a good educational model. However, along with them, Finland shows a curious trend: despite not enjoying the economic level of its western neighbours, for years it has been above them in the results of the PISA report , which assesses the educational level of 15-year-olds.
In fact, the first time that these measurements were taken, this country surprised us by leading the educational ranking with a great advantage over the rest.
Since then, Finland has become a benchmark in education. But it seems that it is not content with a school model that others are trying to imitate. Now the country is in the process of changing the way it teaches from top to bottom: subjects disappear and “projects” appear , in which several skills are worked on at once.
The characteristics of education in Finland
The current Finnish educational model is characterized by a liberalization of teaching, which moves away from models based on very rigid master classes in which students copy and memorize what they are told. This means that an attempt is made to empower students by getting them to participate actively in classes, to cooperate with each other to develop projects and, in general, to have a greater degree of freedom in deciding how to learn.
On the other hand, it seems that Finnish education achieves more with less . Its annual teaching hours, for example, are less than those of Spain: 608 and 875, respectively. The amount of homework to be done at home is also lower, and this fits very well with a way of thinking that places parents in a very relevant place with regard to the education of their children. It is understood that education is something that takes place throughout the day, and not only within the walls of the school.
Moreover, teacher training is very demanding for both primary and secondary schools, and is considered a university and post-university path that is difficult to access, as well as being very centralized: the ways of training teachers are very similar in all the country’s universities. It is for all these reasons, among others, that teachers are highly valued and admired in Finland.
What does the disappearance of the subjects consist of?
Finland’s new educational paradigm, which is being tested in schools in Helsinki and will be fully implemented by 2020, is based on one premise: to move from educating about content to educating about skills similar to those that will be required in adult life.
This means no longer dealing with topics as if each one were a watertight compartment, but making sure that in one hour students learn and train in very diverse skills, in the same way that in day-to-day life the challenges do not appear in a sequential way, but are integrated into each other.
Thus, the subjects give way to “projects”, in which subjects that previously belonged to different subjects are integrated in complex challenges and with several competence layers . For example, one of the exercises to be carried out may consist of explaining in English the different ecosystems characteristic of several European countries studied previously, or of explaining whether a text on economics offers correct data and expresses them in grammatically correct ways.
In this way, the students’ brains will always be working on several types of mental processes at the same time, oriented towards the resolution of a complex problem, what is sometimes known as multiple intelligences.
These projects will be led by groups of several teachers who will combine their skills to provide an environment in which students can work in groups and ask questions on different topics without being slowed down by the pace of the class.
Training future workers
The idea of educating in a less rigid way is very seductive, among other things, because it seems to be based on the ideals of romanticism. A class in which activities take place more naturally should be exposed to the risks that the impositions of “civilization” put limits on the creativity and spontaneous curiosity of the young.
However, there is an alternative way of looking at this change in educational model. For example, interpret it as a way of subordinating education to the interests of the labour market . It is one thing to work on several types of competencies at the same time, and another to choose the type of projects in which these will be exercised according to the needs of the country’s productive machinery.
With the disappearance of the subjects and the emergence of a more pragmatic approach, the risk of theoretical and practical projects that produce added value is entering the scene, further eclipsing those whose existence does not have to depend on the market but on critical thinking and a global vision of the world, such as philosophy. Time will tell.