In India, schools for children are usually the same for students across the country. Children wake up early, rush to school half-sleepy, rote-learn half of what is being taught, and then aimlessly complete their homework when they come back home. However, the scenario seems to be slowly changing with the introduction of the Finnish model of education in India.
What is the Finnish model of education?
The Finnish education system is very different from the standardised ones followed in India where government-appointed experts and agencies draw up a curriculum, teachers teach from set books, and students learn it by heart and are then assessed through hours-long exams.
Experts say under the Finnish model of education students are taught using practical methods and they are encouraged to use their common sense. It focuses on students’ well-being which helps in their holistic growth along with learning, they add. The Finnish model gives students a chance to learn about soil by going to the fields and about measurements by making lemonade. Students count moving cars or trees to learn counting and calculations, sticks and stones are used to teach patterns and shapes, and much more, according to the experts.
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“The Finnish education system believes in learning by doing. Children are given a lot of opportunities to explore their interests and likes. The main difference between the Indian education system and the Finnish education system is the capacity to explore. There are many excellent things that we have in the Indian education system, but we have to understand the fact that each child is unique and the requirements of each child are different. This is where the flexibility in the curriculum, day plans, lesson plan comes that makes the Finnish Model effective,” explains Chani Trivedi, Director of Nordic High International School, Indore.
When it comes to assessment, Finland doesn’t have any or minimal formal examinations, instead, students are assessed in more than one way to ensure real learning is happening instead of just getting grades. In addition to this, teacher training is one of the key points of this education system as experts believe it is the educators who have the power to scrap the theoretical approach and help students learn in an engaging way.
Finnish model of education in India
The Finnish model of education is slowly gaining traction in India—a country which has thrived on theory-based classes and has the toughest exams in the world. Experts are introducing the Finnish model of education right from the elementary classes in India. While some schools have adopted this method till Class 4, some have gone as high as Class 8.
“The Finnish model of education purely believes in providing experiential learning following the concept of phenomenal-based learning, which enables students to learn by doing. Hence, it is a student-centered, multidisciplinary model of learning focusing on being their voice and developing a sense of responsibility while dealing with real-world problems and issues,” explains Jyoti Arora, the principal of Delhi World Public School, Noida Extension.
However, no school in India has been able to adopt the Finnish model of education solely. Experts believe it is not possible to completely shift to this model of education in India. “Children will have to appear for the crucial board exams and compete for the entrance exams,” says Ashish Srivastava, the CEO of Finland Education Hub.
“Since we are following the CBSE curriculum but are trying to imbibe the same using the pedagogy stated by the Finnish Model school. The presence of the models is there in every class but as we move to a higher standard, the number of exercises that we conduct is limited. Since there is a lot of flexibility in the early years, the number of exercises that we are conducting during that period is more like weekly exercises,” says Gaurav Sonbhadra, school manager of Sharda World School, Agra.
However, Srivastava of the Finland Education Hub added that the Indian education system is now being transformed for good. “India with its announcement of NEP 2020 has taken a significant step forward towards shifting focus on skill-building, developing competencies, and getting students ready for the future. Until now, the Indian education system has pivoted around central examinations that required students to only prepare for these tests instead of focusing on relevant learning that had an effect on students’ mental well-being, lack of alternative choices and more. However, now with NEP 2020 and global collaboration, we are noticing changes across schools and school leaders’ mindset,” he explained.
Inside the classroom
In the majority of the schools following the Finnish model of education, students do not begin their academic day till 9 am. When students come to school, they are usually given 15 minutes as a “transition phase”, which allows them to adjust to the change in their surroundings.
“We start their days with a classroom activity related to the learning areas (for example expressing myself, me and my community, environment, language, literacy and numeracy, my growth and development). We make sure children are given snack breaks, peace/nap time, and play periods while making them learn,” explains Sindhu Krishna, the principal and director of The Little Titans, a New Nordic School. “We inculcate activities related to the Cooking and Mindfulness curriculum during the week. Only two to three areas of learning are inculcated during the day. Language, literacy and numeracy being a mandate every day.”
A common myth about schools that follow the Finnish model of education is that they fail to introduce basic and introductory concepts. Experts say that while these schools do not follow the stereotypical pen-and-paper approach to teaching important topics, they do not skip any of the basics.
Arora of Delhi World Public School said to teach the 3 R’s of waste management— reduce, recycle, and recreate—the Science teacher asked students to prepare compost at home and the English teacher asked them to make posters and advertisements to spread the message in school and in their neighbourhood. The Social Science teacher prompted them to conduct campaigns in their localities and the Mathematics teacher asked them to prepare statistical data on how much time different waste products take to decompose.
“The Hindi teacher asked them to write slogans and poems on the topic and art teachers motivated them to prepare ‘Best out of Waste’ recycling the old newspapers and other waste products which were then showcased in an exhibition, where parents were invited. These products prepared from recycled goods were sold at nominal prices, the money earned thus was utilised for the benefit of NGOs to serve the old age homes and orphanages,” Arora of Delhi World Public School cited an example.
One of the most important features of the Finnish model of education is that no exams or tests are held. Educators said this helps students avoid exam anxiety and the stress of being graded on the basis of whatever they remember in those three hours. Instead, children are motivated to learn basic concepts through a practical approach and not fear being assessed, judged or graded for their learnings, they added.
“Students are observed/assessed on a daily basis and information regarding their progress is shared to parents via a specially curated rubric that describes the overall well being of the child,” explained Sindhu Krishna of The Little Titans. Additionally, “quarterly reports are prepared by teachers to record observations across all key learning areas over the period.”
Students are also not forced to participate in rote-learning culture, and are instead allowed to grasp concepts at their own pace. This helps in bringing students to school every day, and not hating their learning spaces. The same concept is followed even in the higher classes. “In higher grades, students learning and progress are measured through rubrics, observations, document reviews, and quizzes. The evaluation of progress is ongoing,” said Chani Trivedi of Nordic High International School.
Training the teachers
Schools, that have adopted the Finnish model of education, are extensively devoting their resources to training teachers for this system as they are seen playing the most important part in this learning process. It is on the teacher to ensure that students do not feel burdened, alienated or judged, but also participate in class actively and grasp the basic concepts. “A teacher can give a healthy environment to children only if he/she is at peace and not burdened with responsibilities and targets,” said Sindhu Krishna, who meets her staff every Saturday to share their week-long experiences, problems, and solutions over a meal while preparing for the upcoming week.
Teachers are given special training before the start of their terms. “The school has designed the systematic and extensive Teacher Training Program for the teachers to have a great understanding of the Finnish education model. They have been trained on various aspects of the Finnish education model and equipped to customise it as per the requirement of their classes. The teachers have been initially trained by the experts from Finland and follow up sessions have been conducted later on,” explained Arora.
“In Finland, teachers are trained on being independent and empowered to develop a curriculum/syllabus that they believe would give the right learning curve to students in their class. They also can choose if they want to teach from multiple resources such as technology, environment or other creative ways. A big part of each teacher’s education is learning how to tailor teaching to different kinds of learners,” said Srivastava of Finland Education Hub.