Why the Finnish education model is gaining interest in India
By: Shelly Anand
With experiential and hands-on learning gaining ground globally, the focus of education seems to be shifting towards imparting knowledge both inside and outside the classroom. Previous methodologies of rote learning are no longer effective. Schools and higher education institutes are introducing innovative educational strategies that emphasise on creativity and skill-based education replacing exams and monotonous lectures with summative assessments. Academic topics are connected with real life.
In order to introduce such far-reaching reforms in the Indian education system, a lot needs to be changed. A cue can be taken from the Finnish education system where equality, accessibility, and inclusivity are most important. Finland has been celebrated as one of the best educated countries in the world and The Economist ranked it at the top of their Educating for the Future Index (2019). What makes the system so special?
Finland has methodically constructed an apparatus for academia and learning that’s superior to other countries. For instance, teachers there are extensively trained and encouraged to gain experience before they are formally inducted as regular teachers after an entrance exam, interview, and work experience proof. Education is treated as a fundamental right rather than a privilege; schools are publicly funded, run by highly trained educators from government agencies and every Finnish child gets the same quality of education regardless of financial, geographical or social status. Curriculum reforms are also common every few years and the country has a large number of vocational high schools.
According to Shashank Goenka, managing director, Finland International School, Thane, which is based on the Finnish pedagogy, “The educational system in Finland differs from the standardised ones practised in India, where government-appointed experts and agencies develop a curriculum, teachers instruct from prescribed texts, and children memorise it before being tested in hours-long tests.”
Children are at the centre of the learning cycle in the Finnish education system and the national core curriculum framework guides teachers to construct their grade level course in subjects such as English, Finnish, Spanish, Science and Mathematics. “Learning takes priority above testing,” adds Goenka. So, Finland conducts national exams for students in basic education after Grade 9 and develops life skills which are also called transversal competences alongside academics. And teachers oversee evaluating students in their fields of specialisation depending on the objectives of the curriculum.
“Finnish classrooms are not driven by the one-size-fits-all instructional system, but are learner-centred and collaborative. The curriculum is not rigidly regimented or rote driven, and the love of learning rather than scoring high percentages is the very core of the system,” explains Rajesh Bhatia, founder and CEO of TreeHouse Education, Mumbai.
The main objective of Finnish education policy is to provide equal chances for education to all individuals. Schools focus on providing experiential learning that allows them to enjoy learning while imbibing knowledge rather than focusing on scoring marks. Goenka observes, “These ideals are reflected in the organisation of the educational system. The system is quite porous and there are no obstacles that prohibit students from moving on to higher levels of study.” Based on their overall GPA for theoretical courses included in the basic education certificate, students are chosen for upper secondary school.
In India, there now seems to a surge of interest in the Finnish model of education. One of the reasons could be the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 and departure from a regimented approach where the space to personalise education and create innovative pedagogies is nearly non-existent. Bhatia says, “The grading system here does little to inculcate the love for learning in over-stressed students. Finnish education, on the other hand, advocates activity-based learning, brings students in close interaction with nature and empowers them with life skills.”
Most educationists would agree that there is a need to move beyond the textbook-based and test-oriented education models and to not prepare children to take a test but teach them how to learn.
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