Few years ago, I was in Finland on business travel. I have been working with Finns remotely for more than a couple of years by then, so, I understand how brilliant and dedicated they are at work. I admired that quality of theirs always. When I stepped into the office on the first day, I had goosebumps, not because of the cold outside but the parking lot. The parking lot was completely filled with cars, it was only 7.30 AM in the morning. For couple of weeks, I observed how religiously Finns follow rules, regulations and timings. Their lunch table and corridor conversations were always about their families, although they are colleagues at work, the friendship was very evident.
Finland has the highest number of patents in Digital Technology. I read a few technical publications available in the company website, they were quite impressive. The amount of technical details and their grip on the latest technology trends was attracting me. I wondered how they managed to attain the knowledge an upkeep with it?
The answer to the question came in the following days. A week later I accompanied a resident of our apartment complex to her kid’s school. Her daughter was 8 year old, they recently moved to Tampere from Helsinki. During the 20 minute drive to the school, she explained about Finnish culture and festivals, mainly Christmas and the Santa Claus ( he is resident of Finland !!!) She had the pride of being a Finn and I loved how much she admired her country…
It was a day full of surprises. Once we were at school, we went straight to the play area. All the kids were playing, I could see a wide variety of games, seems there is a compulsory play time of 2 hours. Have I told you? In Finland kids can start school only at the age of 7. The school is max for 4 hours a day and cannot exceed 20 hours a week. Of course, the ‘4 hours’ includes lunch time and play time. Technically all the schools in Finland are the same, there are no elite schools. It is illegal in Finland to charge for tution, hence the fee is very nominal, that is only to avail the facilities at school. Even super rich parents have to send their children to the same schools, equal education for all. Teachers strive hard to find innovative ways to help kids learn. But how do we know if the student is doing good in a particular subject ?
No, not exams. Finland does not have standardised examination structure until grade 10. There are neither exams nor grades awarded to students. Instead students are encouraged to learn practically. They can learn carpentry, art, baking, singing, poetry, athletics, sewing, not just mathematics and science. I have witnessed children aged 10 demonstrating robotics (working prototypes), teachers help them with coding and programming IC’s, but students have to come up with the idea, which eventually develops innovative thinking. Students demonstrate their projects explaining how the idea can be of help to the relative field. When children play in the garden, they can make a note of plants, fruits, flowers they see. Teachers ask them specific questions on how the kids spent their evening and teach them what ever they can from those experiences.
The term “homework” is completely unheard of in Finland. Students in late teens also won’t spend more than 10 minutes on so called “work they could do after school hours”. I still remember what the teacher said, “They are kids, at the age of 5 our muscles are not yet developed to hold a pencil. That’s why kids go to play schools until the age of 7. Schools here encourage students to learn by themselves. After school they have to spend time with family, make friends and socialise, that is how they can learn. Kids have to be relaxed and happy all the time, this helps in brain development. A student can become what ever they want to, and we only introduce them to various fields, they are free to choose. No profession in Finland is considered low or high, all are equally respected“.
The story of Universities is no different. Student can apply to any university and get an admission (without a test). There is no tuition fee even for doctoral studies. This removes the major worry from the student, hence, they don’t have to wonder if they can afford what they want to study. Students get paid for studying, the “Student aid”. This money helps the students to find accommodation and buy the necessary books. No wonder Finland has the best education system. Masters is mandatory to find a job, because Finland wants it’s citizens to gain expertise on the career option before they can apply for jobs.
The complete education system is very liberal as it is supposed to be. This gave me an answer to why Finns are so good at accomplishing tasks. Education system shall not confine students thinking capacity with traditional teaching methods and subjects. There is a lot to learn in the school of life than in actual schools – this is what I learnt from Finnish schools, and the schools there give the scope for children to learn, really learn …
“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” – John Holt