Finland’s Education System: Inspiring and Intriguing

Northern lights. Aurora borealis

Finland’s education system is constantly in my vocabulary when speaking with other educators. I have read articles, watched movies and entirely fawned over Finland’s glorious, successful education system.

For me, it boils down to the basics. The students are happy and excited to attend school. The teachers are inspired, full of energy, and confident in their system. The students and teachers work collaboratively to achieve the same goals. What more could an educator hope for? Learning combined with ease, enthusiasm, and enjoyment.

Finland’s education system is the envy of educators from across the globe, yet, how does it really work? As an Ontario Certified Teacher, I have learned the Ontario curriculum and guidelines. I have learned how to formally assess students learning and achievement. I have developed skills and learned how to break down learning goals and success criteria in each and every lesson. I wonder how they assess their students? Do they have formal assessments or written documents that go home? Do the children’s knowledge levels vary the way they do within our classrooms here? How do they deal with behavioural issues? My questions could fill pages. I want to know everything. What I do not question is whether they are confident in their system; I just wonder how it all breaks down and looks day-to-day from a teacher’s perspective. How do they plan and prepare for each day? How do they communicate with parents?

My curiosity inspired extensive research on Finland’s education system. One particular day during my research, I came across a conference being held in Finland in January 2017 for 800 educators from around the world.  LIFE 2017 is an exclusive opportunity to visit ordinary Finnish schools and see how teaching is organized, talk with local teachers and students, and listen to the top Finnish pedagogical experts. I saved the link and would go back and visit it from time to time, dreaming of what it would be like to actually see their classrooms first-hand. One day, I was having a conversation with my employer when the topic of conferences came up. She encouraged me to send the link over so we could talk it through. Could I realistically go to Finland in just 2 short months? While we were discussing the possibility, the questions asked from my employers were as follows: Did I have any plans late January? Do I have an up-to-date passport?

My heart stopped.

Could I actually see this magical education system in live action? It’s been a dream of mine for quite some time. I’m already beginning to make a list of questions for teachers. Just to sit in a classroom and observe a lesson would be remarkable.

It wasn’t long before my flights were booked, and I AM GOING TO FINLAND! In just over a month, I will be on my flight out, and for now, my focus is to prepare for my trip.

Stay tuned for updates!

Article by Sara Machnik

Sara has been working with children for over 15 years holding a Bachelor of Arts (with Honours) in Child and Youth studies and is an Ontario Certified Teacher, she is passionate about education and excited to be a part of its evolution.