Finland – The F Word in Education

The message, ‘Learning with the Best’ was certainly apt for the very first Helsinki Education Week.

Postcard from Helsinki, Finland

Processed with MOLDIV

The HundrED Community

We were sign-posted to this event by HundrED. As we were there for the HundrED Summit, we jumped at the chance to visit a school and try out some new Physically Active Learning games. Who wouldn’t? In the UK, we hear so much about the Finnish education system, so now was a great opportunity to check out the myths and more.

We know that certain people within the education hierarchy in the UK refer to their Finnish counterparts as ‘THE F Word’. But in a way, we see this as a badge of honour.

Having read some of the work by Pasi Sahlberg, professor of education policy, it was a genuine pleasure to listen to the man in person. To watch Pasi’s talk at the HundrED summit, click here. Watch it – one pearl of wisdom after another!

Invitations, Introductions & Impressions

Thanks to Ilona Taimela, we were introduced Arita Norrback, principal at Siltamäen ala-asteen koulu. We shared our visit with Omer Fast from Education Cities.

Walking into the school, we were struck by the openness, not just of the building itself, but of the people – the students and the teachers. It just seemed so relaxed.

Talking with Arita, we were surprised to discover that there are no assemblies and teachers negotiate the start times with their children. Not only that, we learned that the teachers and students co-create their learning. Together, they consider what they are going to learn and how they are going to learn about it. As Omer commented: “My own pedagogical philosophy – and an inherent part of ‘future 2.0 education’ – is the transition from a pyramid to a network paradigm. What struck me most was the implementation of these concepts by the teachers and its influence and effect on the students, realising that learning happens in different shapes and forms. Everyone is both a teacher and a student. Collaboration and trust between both the staff and the students is pivotal in establishing an advanced, innovative and dynamic school.”

Talking with the teachers, we learned about Phenomena-Based Learning and Strength-Based Learning. The latter resonated with many schools in the UK who nurture GRIT, determination and resilience. Walking into the Woodwork and Textiles Suites, we were amazed to learn that woodwork and sewing is compulsory in Finnish elementary schools. Ironically, back in the UK we hear of many secondary schools closing their DT suites as the subject isn’t measured. 

Creativity in FinlandCreativity in Finland

Moving and Learning in Finland

As to delivering the Tagtiv8 sessions with the 4th Graders, there was a combination of excitement and curiosity. Would they welcome a Physically Active Learning approach to Mathematics delivered in English? We needn’t have worried – most of the children quickly grasped the concepts and understood how to play the games. It wasn’t just the students who played – the teachers too joined in with equal amounts of energy and enthusiasm.

The feedback from the staff and children was wonderful. There was even time for a Q&A session at the end, with children asking us about life in the UK and what schools are like compared to their school. Needless to say, we had to say we prefer their way of working and playing. We also talked about each others interests – fascinating to see that basketball and ice hockey are as big as football over there! We were really impressed by how ‘switched on’ and aware the children were about global and environmental issues. We shared this with Chris Williams from Chatta, who was also a recipient of the HundrED ‘100 to Watch in 2019’. Strangely, we had both studied Environmental Studies at the same university a few  moons ago.

Genuine Investment in Education

Talking with educators from Finland, it is apparent that there is a real investment in education in this country. We are not just talking about financial investment, but also about investment in time. Schools in Finland are not driven by data. Teachers are trusted. The profession has autonomy to do what they do best. Unlike the UK, it’s all about learning and not just being taught to pass the test. Cue the thoughts and words of Michael Rosen

The Data Have Landed

Moving and Learning Across the Globe

One of the reasons that Tagtiv8 had been selected as a ‘100 Inspiring Innovation for 2019’ was our universality – the programme can work across many countries, not just one. Our visit to Siltamäen ala-asteen koulu confirmed that our Physically Active Learning (PAL) approaches succeed regardless of the language and the backgrounds of the children. But hey, we already knew that.

If you would like to find out more about moving and learning with Tagtiv8 in your country, just reach out.

PS We have since been approached by a school in South Korea about our resources:

“I’m an English teacher in South Korea and I just found out about Tagtiv8 today. I’m astonished because it lines up with my beliefs and my students love doing physical activity! Honestly, thank you for making something like this! I can’t wait to break this out for class!”

Needless to say, the kit will be making its way east next month.

Looking Ahead

Visiting Siltamäen ala-asteen koulu gave Omer and ourselves our first opportunity to see a Finnish school in action. It certainly impacted on our curiosity – with much to envy. Needless to say, it will not be our last visit – we are already looking forward to returning in 2019.