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Better Ways Change Needed

What makes the Finnish school system successful? (Interviews with Pasi Silander)

Two interviews with Pasi Silander, leading figure in the Finnish education system and author of the book ‘Finnish Lessons 2.0 What can the world learn from educational change in Finland’.

Pasi Silander has been deeply involved in the research and creation of many of the innovative concepts and pedagogical practices used within their school system. In Finland students do inquiry-based learning about the real world, with projects that they work on for many weeks or months allowing them to really dig deep. There are incredibly few exams, students develop portfolios instead. And digital is imbedded into their everyday, students make use of digital in every way that it is useful to them, so all students are digital savvy.


Interview with Hong Kong based eGov Innovation

“In today’s education systems, we should promote competencies for the future, 21st century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and learning skills. These soft skills are needed, while hard skills (e.g. memorizing facts, basic calculation) will be done more or less by computers in the future.”

“In the digitalized school, the roles of teachers and students are transformed. Teachers no longer feed information to students, instead they activate and guide students. Students are no longer targets of instruction but active agents in learning processes.”

“Electronic learning materials replace traditional schoolbooks. Traditional classrooms give way to multi-modal working environments, in which students no longer sit in rows. Learning environments expand from the school building to other institutions in the surrounding society. Learning is no longer organized into traditional classes only but can happen in workshops, in projects and on-the-job in vocational education.”

Read it in full: How is Finland building schools of the future? (eGov Innovation, 31 Jan 2017)


Washington Post interview

In 2015 Finland dropped to fifth place in the PISA ratings. The Washington Post interviewed Silander about what Finland planned to do about their slipping PISA ranking.

“The Finnish way of thinking is that the best way to address insufficient educational performance is not to raise standards or increase instruction time (or homework) but make school a more interesting and enjoyable place for all. Raising student motivation to study and well-being in school in general are among the main goals of current education policy in Finland.”

“The first lesson certainly is that the best way to react is not to adjust schooling to aim at higher PISA scores. In the coming years, foreign observers will see more integrated interdisciplinary teaching and learning in Finnish schools that actually will decrease instruction time in mathematics and science. They will also witness more emphasis on arts and physical activity in all schools.

The second lesson is that sustainable improvement of education requires protecting and enhancement of equity and equality in education. International visitors are likely to see intensified conversation in Finland across political parties and opinions on making the education system serve better everyone.

Finally, what Finland should learn from these recent results is that reducing education spending always comes with consequences. It is very short sighted to think that high educational performance and continuing betterment of schools would be possible when resources are shrinking. Whether Finland’s politicians and bureaucrats take these lessons seriously remains to be seen.”

Read it in full: Finland’s schools were once the envy of the world. Now, they’re slipping. (Washington Post, 8 Dec 2016)


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