Finland’s education system sits at the top of global rankings, clustered with the likes of Singapore, Japan and the United Kingdom. Apart from producing some of the world’s best students, Finland also boasts of having the happiest school children in the world. With anxiety and stress becoming a growing concern among parents of school age children today, you have to ask: what’s the Finnish secret?
It’s how much the Finnish educational system values the importance of play.
In a video uploaded by Collective Evolution, excerpted from the documentary Where to Invade Next? by Michael Moore, Finnish teachers and school officials share the most integral aspects of their school system. All of it is founded on the principle that children should be allowed to be, well, children.
“[Finnish students] do not have homework,” says Krista Kiuru, Finland's Minister of Education. “They should have more time to be kids, to be youngsters, to enjoy their life.”
So instead of being stuck at home and in front of their study desks, Finnish kids get to explore, meet with friends, and climb trees. Learning extends outside of the classroom, just not in the form of homework. “They end up, while climbing a tree, probably finding out about different insects and they can come to school the next day and tell me about what they found,” says first grade teacher Anna Hart.
Not only that, younger school children spend just 20 hours of school a week, around three or four hours a day. “Your brain has to relax every now and then. If you just constantly work, then you stop learning. And there's no use in doing that for a longer period of time,” says school principal Leena Liusvaara. Adults find it difficult to get anything done when they’re overworked and tired. What more kids?
So the zero homework may not be something we will see in our schools any time soon. In fact, if the mere idea makes you nervous, too, don't worry--we get it. But we can see how Finland's brand of “learn and play” philosophy can be applied in simple ways at home. Deliberately allot room in your child’s day for play, for instance. Try not to over-schedule your child with afterschool extracurricular activities. Encourage him to pick activities he will enjoy, and allow him free time of his own.
You can also take a cue from this teacher who gave her students the best homework ever that included items like “Go on a bike ride” and “Laugh until your tummy hurts.” We’re guessing she’s read a thing or two about Finland as well.