What are the ingredients to Finland's elementary school success?

Dive Brief:

  • The University of Eastern Finland’s teacher training lab school gives students the freedom to move and play, a model that has been tied to the nation’s reputation as having the best primary school system in the world.
  • William Doyle, a 2015-16 Fulbright Scholar and faculty member at the University of Eastern Finland, writes for The Hechinger Report that “Master Teacher of Finland” and head of school at the lab school Heikki Happonen creates a welcoming physical and emotional environment for students to feel clever, trusted, safe and respected.
  • Among the transferrable elements of the Finnish school system, Doyle counts “early learning through play, equitable school funding, highly professionalized teacher training, a research-based and whole-child approach to school management, warmth and respect for children and teachers,” challenging but low-stress learning environments and a strong special education system.

Dive Insight:

Finland is often looked to as an aspirational example for education systems around the world. Its teachers are selected from among the highest-performing university students and they are paid accordingly. Its students routinely earn among the highest test scores in the world, and — importantly for U.S. education reform strategies — they get them without intensive test prep.

The Finnish model has been particularly celebrated for its priority of play. Until high school, students are offered hourly 15-minute breaks to go outside and run around. From a U.S. perspective, the first concern is instructional time. But teachers that have taught in both systems say the play breaks help students focus better during class. The time spent outside could actually increase the number of on-task minutes students have in the classroom.

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Filed Under: K12
Top image credit: Flickr user Iago Laz