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15, February, 2021 | EMPOWERING TEACHERS

Lessons We Can Learn From Finland

Finland is usually in the news for all the right reasons; It enjoys the highest happiness index, is the country with the highest gender equity, has the cleanest air quality and is renowned for it’s progressive education system.


Many countries want to learn from the Finnish education model. A country, where formal school learning begins only at age seven and where in spite of the number of hours spent at school is lower than in most countries, their students regularly rank high in the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) – an assessment that measures the scholastic performance of 15 year olds on mathematics, science and reading. We know that teaching standards in Finland are very high. Becoming a teacher is a very rigorous process and getting accepted into a teacher training degree is not easy.

Recently, Learning Matters collaborated with Finland. Together, we completed a 60-hours online teacher training in collaboration with Finland International Education. The course, Foundations of Early Childhood Learning (FECL), was planned and presented by both Finnish and Indian educators. We ensured the relevance of the course was embedded across socio-economic backgrounds and had participants from top private schools and the Delhi government schools. While we are acutely aware of the additional challenges of working with vulnerable populations, we are committed to quality teaching practices as the right of ALL children. We know, the neuroscience principles on early childhood best practices remain universal and apply to every child.

I was heartened by the learnings shared by our participants at the end of their training. I believe we have been instrumental in empowering a cohort of educators (from this training) to be practitioners and ambassadors of play based education and proponents of wholistic childhood. Childhood that all young children deserve.

For decades the research has shown that the ages between 0-6 years is when a child’s key brain architecture is laid for future development. The early experiences shape whether a child will grow up as an empathetic, caring adult, if he/she will be confident and unafraid to make mistakes, if as an adult he/she will know how to work collaboratively with others. These are the years when a child’s future blue print is formed and shaped by his early childhood experiences. The weight of this research commits us to take our work in early childhood very seriously.

The participants in our course were empowered with concrete tools to enable them to effectively play their crucial role in providing a nurturing, language rich, child-centred approach by being a guide and a facilitator and not a sage on the stage, imparting knowledge. Instead, they were introduced to an approach where each child is seen as a competent, complete individual. Where each child is respected and honoured as an individual for his/her own unique thinking. They were shown the cognitive, social, emotional and physical benefits of child led play. The participants themselves learned in an emotionally safe and joyous environment.

It is this approach that Finland ensures in their early years practices. An approach that takes the early years seriously since they know the experiences children have between 0-6 years will not only shape them as adults but also directly impact their academic success. Academics which are introduced only in grade one when a child is 7 years old. The Finnish system follows the research on how children learn to read and write, do maths etc. They know when academic learning is introduced at a developmentally appropriate time, life long learners are being encouraged. Learner’s who are also good citizens.

And after all, isn’t this what every nation should strive for?

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