Trending: Finland’s Leap of Faith

1413119955858We’ve talked about Finland a few times over the last few years.  We’ve written about their awesome PISA results, quoted Tony Wagner referring to their students as the only “innovation-ready” high school graduates in the world, and discussed what it is exactly that they’re doing right in our review of the Smartest Kids in the World.

Today though, we’re talking about something pretty amazing that Finland is doing, something that doesn’t happen everyday….while they are proverbially on top of the education world, they are changing things up.

This is pretty impressive because, as you probably know from your own life if not from the vast realms of scholarship on change leadership, it’s often hardest to change when things are going well.  Why change when things are good right?

The thing is  – in our crazy-fast-paced world, to stay on top you have to be ready to change. Major props to Finland’s education leaders for taking this leap.

So what’s the change?  Here’s how the UK’s Independent explained it:

Finland is about to embark on one of the most radical education reform programmes ever undertaken by a nation state – scrapping traditional “teaching by subject” in favour of “teaching by topic”.

Subject-specific lessons – an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon – are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city’s upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call “phenomenon” teaching – or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.

More academic pupils would be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union – which would merge elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography.

Hmmm…sounds a bit like concept-based learning right?  Not exactly…but close.  It will be interesting to see how this approach evolves the next few years.  Will PISA scores fall? Would that matter? Will kids be even more innovation-ready? We’re on the edge of our seats!

This isn’t the only change that’s coming out of Finland.  The Independent also reports that a shift to less students sitting passively in rows and more collaborative learning “with pupils working in smaller groups to solve problems while improving their communication skills.”

Sounds like a great time to be a student in Finland.  Not to mention so great inspiration to make a change!

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