Could subjects soon be a thing of the past in Finland?

The BBC reports that Finland has long been renowned for the quality of its education and always scores highly in international league tables. Now it is rethinking how it teaches in the digital age – seeking to place skills, as much as subjects, at the heart of what it does. But not everyone is happy, and there are fears it could bring down standards.

It is a chilly morning in a remote village in southern Finland, but the thoughts of this class of 12-year-olds are elsewhere – in ancient Rome. Their teacher is taking them through a video re-enactment – shown on the classroom’s interactive smart board – of the day Mount Vesuvius erupted and destroyed the city of Pompeii.

They use 3D printers to create a miniature of their Roman building, which will eventually be used as pieces for a class-wide board game. This is a history lesson with a difference, says Aleksis Stenholm, a teacher at Hauho Comprehensive School. The children are also gaining skills in technology, research, communication and cultural understanding.

Its ability to produce high academic results in children who do not start formal schooling until the age of seven, have short school days, long holidays, relatively little homework and no exams, has long fascinated education experts around the world.

Despite this, Finland is shaking up the way it is doing things – a move that it says is vital in a digital age where children are no longer reliant on books and the classroom to gain knowledge.

In August 2016 it became compulsory for every Finnish school to teach in a more collaborative way; to allow students to choose a topic relevant to them and base subjects around it. Making innovative use of technology and sources outside the school, such as experts and museums, is a key part of it. The aim of this way of teaching – known as project- or phenomenon-based learning (PBL) – is to equip children with skills necessary to flourish in the 21st Century, says Kirsti Lonka, a professor of educational psychology at Helsinki University.

Anneli Rautiainen of Finland’s national agency for education accepts there are concerns and says they are introducing the changes gradually: schools are only required to provide one such PBL project for its pupils a year.

“We want to encourage teachers to work in this way and for children to experience it, but we are starting it slowly. There are still subjects being taught and goals to be reached for each subject, but we also want skills to be embedded in that learning,” she explains

Read the full article Could subjects soon be a thing of the past in Finland?

Could you see project-based learning entering schools in the UK? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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