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Finland considers abandoning subject based eduation


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#1 tastywheat

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 12:08 PM

So Finland, probably the worlds most progressive and successful education system for primary and secondary education, is looking at getting rid of subjects (e.g. Math, History, Geography etc.) and structuring the whole system around holistically learning about phenomena:

 

http://www.sbs.com.a...subjects-school

 

Pretty awesome stuff from the perspective of an education nerd.  This goes along with other radical/awesome policies that have accumulated over the years:

  • Free universal daycare for children aged eight months, to five years old.  Alternatively, the government will pay a stipend for a parent to stay at home for the first 3 years.  
  • 1:4 teacher to student ratio for children under 3, 1:7 ratio for children under 7, ~1:10 for the rest of high school.
  • Kindergarten delayed till children are 6 years old, compulsory primary school starts at 7.
  • Minimal assessment until students are 15 years old, comprehension exercises only used as feedback for students, teachers and parents.
  • Students learn in 3 languages, Finnish, English, and typically another Scandinavian or European language.
  • Teachers require Masters degree, and are highly respected members of society.  Entry is extremely competitive, with only 10% of applicants making it through.
  • Teaching is always performed in teams, significant amount of time devoted to professional development.
  • Universities divided between schools of applied science, and theory/research (traditional).  A bachelor of applied science is not considered inferior to a bachelor from a traditional university professionally, or when applying for further education (e.g. Masters, PHD).
  • Most schools are 100% free (gratis), and there is very little class division between different schools.
  •  Adults can enroll in individual courses without needing to be a full-time student, in order to promote life long learning.

 

This excerpt from a study comparing different Scandinavian education systems provides some insight into the ethos behind these policies:

 

Finnish early childhood education emphasizes respect for each child’s individuality and the chance for each child to develop as a unique person. Finnish early educators also guide children in the development of social and interactive skills, encourage them to pay attention to other people’s needs and interests, to care about others, and to have a positive attitude toward other people, other cultures, and different environments. The purpose of gradually providing opportunities for increased independence is to enable all children to take care of themselves as “becoming adults, to be capable of making responsible decisions, to participate productively in society as an active citizen, and to take care of other people who will need his [or her] help.

- Anneli Niikko, "Finnish Daycare: Caring, Education and Instruction"

 

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I'm pretty critical of the way things are heading with education in Australia.  How great would it be, if instead of just talking about money, we starting looking at the ways our entire system could be reformed, based on the successful examples set by other countries?  Why were the recommendations in the Gonski report so easily ignored and/or dismissed?

 

For certain, a system such as Finland's would not be cheap, and it would be incredibility disruptive to implement.  But can we afford not to invest in education, given that at some point we're going to be forced to switch from a resource based economy to a service based one, with all indications suggesting that this will need to occur at some point in the 21st century?


Edited by tastywheat, 23 March 2015 - 12:09 PM.


#2 Rybags

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 12:25 PM

Kindergarten delayed until age 6, minimal assessment until age 15.

Doesn't sound very progressive to me.

If a kid has learning difficulties then it can go undetected if proper assessments aren't taking place.

Also stuff like exams at a lower age helps to prepare for pressures of later life.

 

And as for judging whether it's successful or not?  Such as system would need to be in place for longer than a full cycle before any assessment could be properly made, ie 15-20 years.



#3 TheManFromPOST

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 12:31 PM

It is not about how to educate the children
It is about a society that believes in having an education benefits the whole ssociety

Too many Australians think ( and are told by their parents ) that an education is a waste of time

#4 MedicineBaby

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 01:09 PM

It is not about how to educate the children
It is about a society that believes in having an education benefits the whole ssociety

Too many Australians think ( and are told by their parents ) that an education is a waste of time

 

I don't think "many" parents are so dismissive of education. However, I certainly think many fail to engage with their child's education.

 

Mark Latham gave a pretty good take on it in Not Dead Yet: Labor's Post-Left Future.



#5 tastywheat

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 01:13 PM

 

Kindergarten delayed until age 6, minimal assessment until age 15.

Doesn't sound very progressive to me.

If a kid has learning difficulties then it can go undetected if proper assessments aren't taking place.

Also stuff like exams at a lower age helps to prepare for pressures of later life.

 

And as for judging whether it's successful or not?  Such as system would need to be in place for longer than a full cycle before any assessment could be properly made, ie 15-20 years.

 

With respect to starting age, the science has consistently shown that learning is not linear (i.e. a years worth of education for a 5 year old does not yield the same results as a years worth of education for a 7 year old), and that 'readiness to learn' is a much more important factor in the early stages of development.  When children are ready, they actively seek out education, without an authoritative source needing to apply motivation, which results in better life-long habits.  

 

Assessment is necessary for feedback, but using traditional methods (e.g. multiple choice exams) can actually be a distraction from real learning/deep comprehension.  Poorly designed assessment rewards 'right' answers, regardless of the thought process behind them, and pressures students to take shortcuts (e.g. rote learning, cramming), which can be counter productive in the early stages of development.  As mentioned, there are still comprehension exercises to monitor progress, and because of the mandated teacher to student ratio and expertise, I would expect that learning difficulties are much more likely to be picked up in the Finnish system.

 

Exams aren't really analogous to the requirements of life, so I'm not really sure what you're on about there.  The pressures of a workplace, personal life skills, or managing relationships, require very different skills to what's needed to pass an exam.  It may be the current culture (e.g. good results > good school > good job), but it's not a true reflection of performance.  At least in Engineering, a high GPA is generally less important than interpersonal skills during the recruitment process, because industry has learned that GPA isn't linked to competency. 

 

Finnish students perform better than Australian students on international standardised tests for every subject, at every year level, for as long as the exams have been running (since 2000).  This definitely is not a perfect indicator, as exam results don't directly represent competency, but it's as objective as you can realistically get.  Education reforms in Finland started in 1977, and have been steadily measured and updated to adapt to future challenges. 


Edited by tastywheat, 23 March 2015 - 01:18 PM.


#6 .:Cyb3rGlitch:.

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 01:17 PM

I like this. Learning isn't about exams and checking off dot points in a curriculum, it's about fostering the desire to understand more about the world/universe around us. Once you've inspired someone to learn, exams no longer matter, minimum schooling no longer matters, and highly structured subjects make no sense. I hate the idea that exams are "good" because they teach you how to deal with stress. What nonsense, and a kick in the head to those with anxiety problems. My job is nowhere near as stressful as any major exam that I've ever taken, and my skills were not in any way improved by all the stress.


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#7 Director

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 01:27 PM

It is not about how to educate the children
It is about a society that believes in having an education benefits the whole ssociety

Too many Australians think ( and are told by their parents ) that an education is a waste of time

Maybe because, for their parents it was?  I kinda agree.  I do encourage junior to do his best while not allowing himself to be defined by 'grades'.  He also understands that school assessment (certificates, degrees etc) are not so much about real education as much as getting your 'ticket' to play the game. I like the ideas in the OP much better, though I don;t expect anything to change much in that regard over here.


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#8 Rybags

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 04:19 PM

In the early years, it's not necessarily the learning.  It's about learning social skills and learning how to learn (often through playing).

Not to mention, it's generally cheaper and more productive in the long run to have kids doing a couple of years pre/school rather than forking out for child care where the only extras are a banana and milk for lunch.



#9 tastywheat

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 05:29 PM

In the early years, it's not necessarily the learning.  It's about learning social skills and learning how to learn (often through playing).
Not to mention, it's generally cheaper and more productive in the long run to have kids doing a couple of years pre/school rather than forking out for child care where the only extras are a banana and milk for lunch.


That's why the government also offers universal free childcare, with a minimum of one teacher or nurse per four children? The difference to kindergarten being that there isn't a set curriculum or push to start the formal education process, just a classless environment that offers appropriate stimulus to encourage curiosity.

#10 AccessDenied

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 05:41 PM

Sounds almost Montessori'ish.

 

However, I'm not sure of the full implications of what they are doing.  Would be interesting.

 

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#11 Rybags

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 06:28 PM

Let them suck it and see.

 

Just because some so-called progressive Scandinavian country decides to radically change something doesn't mean we should follow suit.

It might be the case that the whole thing falls on it's face.  If that happens, then ultimately it will be a spread of probably 2-5 years worth of kids that suffer.



#12 .:Cyb3rGlitch:.

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 06:40 PM

Nobody said that we should immediately follow. That said, I highly doubt it'll screw up the kids, since 1:10 teacher ratios already completely blow what we have here out of the water. Even if you have less schooling (which is completely up to the student, not enforced), that time will more than likely be of a higher quality compared to the current 1:30+ ratios common here in Australia. Add to that that most of what you learn in school these days is unmitigated prepackaged rote learning garbage to bolster the schools ranking through equally monotonic exams, and you can't help but think we're already been 'screwing' decades of kids.

Edited by .:Cyb3rGlitch:., 23 March 2015 - 07:17 PM.

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#13 tastywheat

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 06:51 PM

It's a logical step if you've been following the progress they've been making, so I'd be quite surprised if it fails.  Always a possibility for sure, but understanding maths (for example) through real world situations where you need to use it, seems like a pretty good approach for real world outcomes.

 

Australia has a long way to progress before we could attempt anything similar.  We don't have the infrastructure, or the skilled labour.  The current trend towards inflated and centrally controlled curriculums, larger class sizes (for public schools), and checkbox driven teaching, is certainly not going to benefit students in the near (and possibly distant) future.



#14 smakme7757

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 06:51 PM

Kindergarten delayed until age 6, minimal assessment until age 15.

Doesn't sound very progressive to me.

If a kid has learning difficulties then it can go undetected if proper assessments aren't taking place.

Also stuff like exams at a lower age helps to prepare for pressures of later life.

 

And as for judging whether it's successful or not?  Such as system would need to be in place for longer than a full cycle before any assessment could be properly made, ie 15-20 years.

As far as i know Norway doesn't give grades or exams before kids are 12. Also from 6 to 12 they start school at 8:30 and finish at 13:30.

(For comparison purposes, not saying what's better or not)


Edited by smakme7757, 23 March 2015 - 06:53 PM.


#15 eveln

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 06:58 PM

For the Finnish plan to work here it would just about mean an almost complete overhaul of the way our teachers are taught .

I quite like the Finn's idea, I think it might enhance more interesting human beings.


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#16 smakme7757

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Posted 23 March 2015 - 07:11 PM

It's definately time for something to be done in Australia. To many fell through the cracks when i went to school and I can only presume there are more in that category now.



#17 Xen

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Posted 24 March 2015 - 11:30 AM

For the Finnish plan to work here it would just about mean an almost complete overhaul of the way our teachers are taught .

I quite like the Finn's idea, I think it might enhance more interesting human beings.

 

For it to work here it would require just about every current teacher to be replaced.

 

A large portion of the student teachers coming through are absolutely useless but seemingly can't be denied a position, I've been told by many senior teachers that they feedback they have given to Universities is completely ignored.

 

As for the current teaching populace, a lot are more stubborn than a mule and any attempt to change anything meets with a huge amount of resistance.

 

@CyberGlitch: Exams are a necessary evil else how do you propose students are graded?



#18 .:Cyb3rGlitch:.

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Posted 24 March 2015 - 12:46 PM

@CyberGlitch: Exams are a necessary evil else how do you propose students are graded?

Simple, you don't. The teacher should be intelligent enough to identify students who are progressing well, and those who are not, without arbitrary benchmarks.


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#19 Cybes

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Posted 24 March 2015 - 12:59 PM

When I was a kid, we had weekly tests in class just to track how we were absorbing the stuff covered that week: simple 10-question tests, set by the teacher, marked by the students themselves as the teacher read the answers out.  Since it mattered almost not at all whether anyone got 10/10 or 0/10 (apart from being laughed at by classmates), that was a whole lot less stressful than once~ or twice-a-year Exams, which could potentially fuck up your whole life.


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#20 tastywheat

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Posted 24 March 2015 - 01:50 PM

For it to work here it would require just about every current teacher to be replaced.

 

A large portion of the student teachers coming through are absolutely useless but seemingly can't be denied a position, I've been told by many senior teachers that they feedback they have given to Universities is completely ignored.

 

As for the current teaching populace, a lot are more stubborn than a mule and any attempt to change anything meets with a huge amount of resistance.

 

 

Actually, I think it would just require additional training, and most importantly, scheduled time for professional development.  We have good teachers, and teachers with good potential, but the system has set them up for failure.  We'd need to train or import a significant number of new teachers to get the ratios down to 1:10, which in turn would allow the time necessary for professional development.

 

It's true that the professional standards have dropped, but in my opinion, this has been driven by a lack of renumeration, social status, and independence given to teachers these days.  Why would you go through 4 years of uni and spend ~$25k for a Bachelor of Education, let alone an additional 1.5 years and $27k for a Masters, for a position with an entry salary of $42k in the public sector, and a ceiling of around $86k, unless you take on an admin role?  Particularly when most of the joys of teaching have been removed, and replaced with paperwork and assessment planning.

 

I think most teachers see the system as fundamentally flawed in it's current state, but the problem is that every attempt to fix it so far has just introduced more bureaucracy that has little to no benefit to students.  We've reached a point now where lesson planning has more to do with checking off absurdly crowded curriculum schedules, and referencing arbitrary and ineffectual CRAs to make sure you have your arse covered, than taking feedback from students, and adapting the course to their interests, levels, and localised educational needs.  Everyone is far too busy catching up on paperwork to devote time to professional development, and the few schools to have well run programs are generally elite private schools that are extremely competitive to get into.

 

Stable reform could happen first through additional funding, followed by training and recruitment, followed by continued and evolving structural changes.  A good start would be stripping out the unnecessary bureaucracy that unqualified politicians and administrators have introduced.


Edited by tastywheat, 24 March 2015 - 01:58 PM.





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