Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Special Features of the Finnish Education System: Curriculum Development in Finland

Irmeli Halinen, Head of preschool and basic education development at the Finnish National Board of Education, gave a speech entitled curriculum development in Finland.

Here are the notes:

Basic principles of education
  • equity
  • equality
  • high quality
  • inclusiveness
  • try to take care of all students and their needs
Finnish education system
  • 6 year olds
  • optional 10th year for those who need more support
  • can do vocational upper-secondary education and the matriculation qualifications
  • allows for individual choices/paths
Learning culture intertwines:
  1. the education system -- comprehensive, inclusive, coherent, trust and support
  2. teachers -- good, valued, high quality of teacher education
  3. individual support -- early intervention plays an active role
History of the education system
  • comprehensive reform from 1970-1977
  • upper secondary school started 1975
  • renewed the national core curriculum in 1985, 1994, 2003-2004
  • coherent and consistent (even with different governments)
  • first national curriculum 1970 -- centralized system (ability grouping grades 7-9, lowest groups did not go to university/upper-secondary school), detailed goals, content, guidelines
  • core curriculum 1985 -- made the municipality more important, ability grouping abolished, eligibility to further studies for everyone
  • revolution/paradigm shift 1994 -- no more school inspection, inspection of teaching materials, delegation of power to municipalities and schools, cooperative learning, "thin" core curriculum
  • 2004 -- method of cooperation, feedback from schools, moved "backwards" - strengthened support and guidance, municipalities getting too large, more core curriculum, new lessons hours, emphasis on goals rather than content
Culture of coherence, trust, and support
  • commonly accepted values, goals, expectations
  • support and cooperation instead of control
  • trust in municipality
  • interaction at/with all levels e.g. municipal, school, state
  • teacher status
Reading comprehension
  • 1965 and 2005 -- lowest performing students doing much better in 2005 than in 1965
  • Finland higher than the OECD average, especially at the lowest performing level
Quality of Finnish education
  • good outcomes -- PISA, low class repetition (2%), low drop out rate during compulsory school (0.5%), 96% to upper-secondary education
  • high trust in education
  • equality of provision/quality
  • effective use of resources e.g. 190 days, 4-7 hours per day, moderate homework, 6% of GDP to education
Math scores
  • student and score level -- Finland higher than OECD average, especially at the low level
Time in mathematics
  • moderate amount of time/homework
  • huge difference e.g. Korea and Finland, especially time out of/after school
Curriculum strategy
  • curriculum - national
  • municipal curricula
  • school curricula
  • curriculum is an ongoing process
  • principals and teachers in curriculum development
  • parents and students too
  • national agreement of participation of other sectors, e.g. health and social care
Steering system
  • paradigm change -- teaching and learning on top, most important; national curriculum a good base of support
  • interaction and common direction
  • e.g. national, municipal, school level
  • e.g. teacher education, curriculum, study materials
  • inclusive and supportive
  • broad
  • inclusive for all students
  • balance between academic achievement and student welfare
  • more attention/emphasis on holistic development of the child
  • PISA showed that the academics are good, but a need for more holistic education
  • school culture and environment is open, flexible, accepting
  • future-oriented, competence-based thinking
  • curriculum a tool for leadership and professional and school development
Roles and tasks of the school curriculum
  • school curriculum involves:
  1. school's plan
  2. teachers' plan
  3. individual study plan
  4. municipal strategies
  5. parents
  6. other schools
  7. individual study
  8. special education
Basic Education Act
  • "Education shall be provided according to the student's age and capabilities and so as to promote all students' healthy growth and development"
  • starting point
  • take differences into account
  • minimum and maximum hours in school
  • organization of teaching and learning: Basic Education Act and Decree, Government's Decree, National Core Curriculum, municipal/school curriculum
  • distribution of hours
  • integrative, cross-curricular themes in lower secondary education, e.g. growth as a person, citizenship
  • organizing teaching and learning
  • flexibility and school/teacher autonomy
  • importance of goals
  • goals expressed as competencies (large competencies, not detailed)
  • teachers encouraged o take into account students' needs
  • emphasis/importance of good basic competencies
Concept of learning (the PISA secret?)
  • is it old-fashioned in Finland?
  • teachers see students as responsible for their own learning
  • learning process is individual and cooperative
Teachers are the key
  • McKinsey -- need the right people, development, and best instruction to be good teachers
  • "the only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction"
Quality of instruction
  • respecting pupils
  • high expectations
  • individual learning
  • friendly atmosphere
  • combination of individual, group, community -- a process
  • support of teachers
  • flexible teaching
  • pedagogical leadership
  • parent-teacher conferences
  • e.g. goals for the child

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