Wouldn't life as a teacher be less stressful without the pressure of marking hundreds of test papers across evening and weekends? Formal testing is something that UK and American teachers are all too familiar with, however that’s not how it’s done in every country. The Finnish appear to have all but scrapped standardised tests; the only formalised exam pupils have is at the end of high school at the age of 18, whereas in the UK pupils still in education at this age would have typically experienced SATS, GCSEs, AS and A-Level tests. The Finnish prevailing notion is that cooperation and not competition in schools allows pupils to succeed.
Teaching in Finland.
Finland's entire education system is based on trust, stemming from the country’s culture. UK teachers can take valuable inspiration from one of the world’s best school systems, which positions trust at the centre education - Finland has been highly praised and started to export its teaching model around the world. Pupils, teachers and schools are all entrusted with a 'whatever it takes' attitude to help pupils to succeed. This inherently means that schools trust teachers and give them high levels of autonomy to construct lessons and teach children in the most effective way. Teachers also go above and beyond to help pupils that might be struggling, effectively giving personalised one-to-one tuition and, if this method fails, they consult with their colleagues to devise alternative strategies.
Extra support across the board.
This level of extra support isn’t just in certain schools, nearly 30% of all Finnish children receive some kind of special help during their first nine years in school. This level of personalised teaching may differ from the UK but the results speak for themselves, Finland ranks fourth in the world for reading and fifth for science.
Finland's teaching style is also far more relaxed than other countries, with free time and play being incredibly important. Finland’s teachers spend less time in class and instead use this time to build a robust curriculum and assess student performance. Children also spend less time in classrooms with additional time being spent outside, there is a huge emphasis on 'not rushing children' and 'letting them learn at their own pace'. Finnish children are also rewarded with 15 minutes of playtime for every 45 minutes of study - the country certainly favours a ‘carrot over stick’ approach to education.
Finland's teachers build an extremely strong rapport with their pupils, it's not unusual for a teacher to stay with the same children for multiple years. The extended amount of time with the pupils, coupled with little to no formal assessments is based on the notion that teachers really get to understand the children and their academic needs. This, in turn, helps them to deliver better and more tailored teaching that the pupils will be more receptive to.
Something often overlooked about the Finnish education system is the emphasis on good quality teachers - becoming a teacher in Finland is no easy feat. Candidates must have at least a master's degree if they want to become a maths teacher, for example, and in-service training is conducted every year to ensure that consistently high standards are maintained. The state funds much, if not all, of the in-service training and due to the high value placed on teachers they are well paid.
Teaching in Finland requires a human approach. Formal tests are put to one side, instead favouring assessments to gauge children's performance. Teachers need to be comfortable creating a diverse and challenging curriculum that is suited to different student needs.
Lastly, struggling pupils will need extra support which can sometimes require close and one-to-one tuition. This can be time-consuming but the rewards far outweigh the additional time commitments. Take a look at more examples of teaching from around the world here.