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


  1. Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post.
    Online Marketing Liverpool

  2. Nice blog thanks for sharing.Visit website and apply online admission to Edifyschoolecity best international schools in electronic city Bangalore
    Education Advisory Board
    Regional school Advisory Board
    edify schools core team
    Principal Speak
    Best schools with Extracurricular Activities