• These 'No Homework' Schools Are Producing Students Who Excel

    To learn the most important lessons, these Scandinavian schools are letting kids be kids.
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
These 'No Homework' Schools Are Producing Students Who Excel
PHOTO BY @romrodinka/iStock
  • Once your child reaches the toddler stage, it's only a matter of time before a whole new phase of his developmental milestones will begin. After tinkering with shape sorters and alphabet blocks, she will soon find out what crayons are for (you may need to explain the difference between a sheet of paper and the wall); play pretend dress up with a "school uniform"; and pick up a bag with her treasured toys and what-not as she tells you she's ready to go to school!

    It's quite amusing when a child shows this kind of eagerness, but for parents, finding an educational institution that embodies everything we want for our kids can be a bit challenging and a lot frustrating, especially if you look to other countries that have their educational systems down pat.

    Countries in the Scandinavian region have long been lauded for their outstanding school systems, notably Finland, Denmark, and Sweden — and rightly so. Their out-of-the-box methods and holistic approach to learning have produced students who are not only achievers academically but are also, more importantly, healthier and more secure. It's no wonder these three countries dominate the list of the top 10 best countries to raise children in 2018.

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    The following are just some of the concepts that distinguish Scandinavians from the rest of the world.

    1. Their schools understand the value of play.

    Middle schoolers in Finland spend only a few hours a week on homework — much of their day is spent doing free play. Furthermore, the kids spend 15 minutes playing outdoors for every 45 minutes of lecture, as their law requires.

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    In Denmark, forest kindergartens are a well-accepted concept among preschoolers. Forest kindergartens are, literally, located right in the middle of nature. They encourage kids to use their surroundings as a starting point for learning, which could involve climbing trees, watching a hen hatch an egg, or tending a garden. The physical activity allows them to release tension and, basically, be kids.

    2. The students don't compete with each other.

    “Equality is the most important word in Finnish education,” Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers' union, told Smithsonian.com. And nowhere is this more evident than in the way they run their schools. The students are not ranked, and neither do schools compete with each other. The teachers all have the same university training, so every child gets the same kind of quality education whichever school he goes to.

    3. Students are assigned the same teacher throughout.

    In Finland, it is not uncommon for a student to have the same teacher for several years, allowing the teacher to create a tailored program for the child and monitor his progress. 

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    4. Scandinavian kids are not in a hurry to start school.

    Finnish children are not required to go to school until they are 7 years old, and there are only nine years of compulsory education in their system, up to age 16. They also begin school at a later time in the day — usually past 9 a.m. — which is all part of removing the unnecessary stress in the kids' daily lives and creating a relaxed atmosphere.  

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    5. Schools teach the concept of gender equality at a young age.

    At one preschool in Sweden, the students are instructed to refer to each other as "friend" — a gender-neutral term — instead of "he" or "she." The institution believes that by doing so, they are sparing the kids from falling into gender stereotypes, and allows them to express themselves and be whoever they want to be, reports Time.com. Their effort goes as far as banning fairy tale books like Cinderella and Snow White that are deemed to categorize women into stereotypes.

    But, while many admire these countries for their innovations, to some, these ideas may seem extreme. One thing is for sure though—we could all learn a thing or two from them in achieving school-life balance for the benefit of the next generations.

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