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School without homework, tests and … subjects, or how they do it in Finland

School without homework, tests and ... subjects, or how they do it in Finland

School without homework, tests and … subjects, or how they do it in Finland Although Finland’s education system is considered to be one of the best in the world, Finnish schools are facing a change again. However, they do not arouse such extreme emotions as the education reforms introduced in Poland. What is the phenomenon of Finnish education? And can it be vaccinated on Polish soil?

Teachers of critical thinking

Finnish education is considered the best in the world for a reason. The Finns started a thorough education reform in the 1970s and they have been implementing it consistently to this day. The Ministry of Education sets its general direction, while the curricula are written by teachers themselves, who have a wide autonomy of action in this area. Their primary concern is to teach children to… learn. – We do not teach for tests, but for life – Science never ends, so you need to teach young people independence, critical thinking and creativity. How do Finnish schools do it? Firstly, they teach group work (young people discuss projects together and solve tasks – as they will do when working in adulthood). Secondly, they put a lot of emphasis on self-evaluation (teachers encourage students to evaluate themselves by considering what they are doing well and what they can still improve). Anyway, for the first six years of education, children do not get any grades, and the first exam they will have to pass is the matura exam. The motivation to learn is not driven by the fear of being misjudged, but above all by curiosity about the world. Much of the lesson is devoted to practical, artistic and sports activities, which give students the opportunity to discover individual talents.

After school, children need time to play with their peers and develop their interests, so they don’t spend time on homework – they just don’t have homework assigned to them. Knowledge is also not checked during polling at the board. In this way, teachers gain a lot of time to complete all the material at school. Effect? Young people want to learn. 95% of primary school students (the compulsory education lasts 9 years) continue their education in secondary schools, and more than half continue (and mostly complete) studies. This is the highest percentage in Europe. In addition, the Finns achieve really good results in science. For many years, they have been at the forefront of PISA tests (an interdisciplinary study that checks the competences of students all over the world), while Poles are close to the middle. It’s not everything. The differences in the level of knowledge between the best and the weakest students are the smallest in the world here. How is this possible? Everyone has equal chances. Education is financed by the state, private schools are practically non-existent. The state also pays for textbooks, lunches and for the children to travel to school. The level of education in all institutions is at the same high level (so there is no unhealthy competition over who gets to a better school). Instead of private tutoring, there are remedial classes led by teachers. Finns cannot imagine that education can take place outside of school. And that they would have to pay for it.

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Topics instead of items

The Finns are not afraid that the better is the enemy of the good and are already getting ready for the next changes in the education system. All subjects will disappear from the timetable. They will be replaced by classes where individual events and phenomena will be comprehensively discussed. What does this mean in practice? That instead of traditional history, geography or mathematics lessons, in small discussion groups, under the guidance of a teacher, students will discuss a specific topic (e.g. World War II from a political, geographical and economic perspective). Young people will learn the basics of entrepreneurship, communication and English during classes devoted to … gastronomy. In addition, students will be able to choose which subject blocks they want to go to, so as to best develop their interests. Thanks to this, they are to be better prepared to enter the labor market. The teaching profession in Finland is already prestigious and in demand, the best people, perfectly educated, with great schools, who are constantly learning. In this way, the circle closes – schools you want to go to (both students and teachers), high-level education, well-educated citizens who understand the need to make further, smart changes. Is such a system possible in Poland?

The first school in Poland without homework

Instead of a red pen and pointing out mistakes – green and circled positives. Instead of being set by the teacher, peer reviews between students are based on clearly defined criteria. Instead of doing homework at home, it’s time to rest and play. This is the educational reform that has been implemented for two years by the headmistress of the Primary School No. 323 in Ursynów. Polish Olympians. It got loud when, during the next school reform in Poland, a discussion arose about the amount and sense of giving students homework to do at home. The media eagerly wrote about “the first school in Poland without homework”. – Do obligatory homework and marked mistakes in red determine success in life? No … , the school’s headmistress in one of the interviews. And everyone wondered how she managed to push her ideas through the school board. – There is a relevant regulation on pedagogical innovation. We can undertake innovative activities as teachers. We submitted the innovation to the board of trustees only after the pilot period and after obtaining parental approval – explained the director. So it turns out that in Poland, in small steps, it is possible to reform the education system without waiting for ministerial orders. All you need is wise teachers, peace and consistency. As it happens in Finland.