Less Formal Schooling = More Options
Students start formal schooling at the age of seven and this first year is followed by only nine years of compulsory school. Everything after ninth grade is optional and at the age of 16, the students can choose to either continue for another three years and write Matric – for those that wants to go to University, OR enter into a three-year vocational training programme that teaches them a specific trade in order to enter the workforce. No, not everyone has to go to University! They cater for students who know that their talents reside outside of the world of formal academics. They allow students to train in and explore vocations they found fascinating and in which they were gifted.
Fewer Classes = More Rest & Breaks
Students typically start school between 9:00 and 9:45 because research has consistently proved that adolescents need quality sleep in the morning. The school day usually ends by 14:00 or 14:45. They only have three to four 75 minute classes a day with several breaks in between. That’s all!
Study after study also supports the need for children to be physically active in order to learn. Stagnation of the body leads to stagnation of the brain and unfocused, “hyper” children.
Secondary level teachers usually have 10 to 20 minute breaks in between classes and often have a few skip (prep) periods as well. This overall system allows both students and teachers to be well rested and ready to teach/learn. Teachers and students are also not expected to be at school when they do not have a class. This system allows teachers more time to plan and think about each lesson. It allows them to create great, thought provoking lessons.
Fewer Teachers = More Consistency and Care
Students often have the SAME teacher for up to SIX YEARS of their education. That is right! The same teacher cares for, nurtures and tends to the education of the same group of students for six years in a row. And you had better believe that during those six years with the same 15-20 students, those teachers have figured out the individual instructional needs and learning styles of each and every student. These teachers know where each of their students has been and where they are going. They track the kids’ progress and have a personal invested interest in seeing the kids succeed and reach their goals. There is no “passing the buck” onto the next teacher because they ARE the next teacher. If there is a discipline or behavior problem, the teacher had better nip it in the bud right away or else deal with it the next six years.
Fewer Accepted Applicants= More Confidence in Teachers
The system understands that the ability to teach isn’t something that can be gained from studying. It is usually a gift and passion. Some have it, some don’t. The few universities with teaching programs make sure they only accept applicants that have that gift. Parents trust the teachers to be highly qualified, trained, and gifted individuals. Every teacher goes through a very tough selection process and must have a Master’s Degree.
Less Testing = More Learning & Depth
The teacher is able to take more risks and try new things and create exciting, engaging curriculum that allows students to become skilled individuals ready for the real world. They have time to teach skills that allow students to develop into individuals who know how to start a project and work systematically to accomplish a goal.
Teachers take their time. They have fewer subjects to cover and look deeper into topics. The students get to actually understand the material before they are forced on to a new topic.
Less Homework = More Participation
Students have the least amount of homework in the world. They average under half an hour of homework a night. Students do not have outside tutors or lessons either. This is especially shocking when you realize that these students are outscoring the high-performing Asian nations whose students receive hours of additional/outside instruction. Students get the work done in class, and teachers feel that what the students are able to do in school is enough. Again, there is not pressure to have them do more than what is necessary for them to learn a skill. Often the assignments are open-ended and not really graded. Yet, the students work on it in class diligently. Teachers have an unspoken agreement with students: “I won’t give you homework if you work on this while you are in my classroom”.
The message is simple – Less IS More. The country………. Finland.