“We want to bring the joy of learning back into the classroom.” That’s how Maithili Tambe, an educationist who is the CEO of The Academy School (TAS) in Pune, explains why they are adopting the ‘Finland education model’ to provide an experiential learning experience to students.
A well-known ICSE board-affiliated school, teaching pedagogy at TAS is set to undergo a radical shift, even though the syllabus would remain the same. Playgrounds and laboratories will now become the new classrooms as children learn to count with skipping ropes and counting trees and simple fun DIY experiments are used to teach Science and Geography instead of textbook lessons.
“No contest, the Finnish education system is the best in the world in terms of pedagogy. That’s what we are trying to adopt here. So, we will offer board exams in Class IX and X but the Finnish model doesn’t believe in exams, so we are trying to move towards a continuous assessment system where we focus on achieving learning outcomes. Most importantly, the Finnish model is about the teaching methodology. Textbooks become reference books for children if at all, and teachers get freedom to plan lessons. The entire learning shifts to practical hands-on learning,” she said.
While at TAS, Tambe is attempting a ‘hybrid model’ between the ICSE curriculum and Finnish education model, in April, Goenka Global Education (GGE) announced that the first Finland International School will come up in Pune’s Kalyani Nagar, which they claim will be India’s first accredited Finnish school.
Relying on common sense practices and a holistic teaching environment that promotes cooperation between students over competition, the Finnish model of education is unique.
Focussed mainly on what Shashank Goenka, managing director of GGE, calls “phenomenal based learning”, the Finnish way requires students to learn from life, not books. “For example, if it’s raining outside, in Finland, they make the kids go out and get soaked to their boots. It is done to get kids accustomed to local weather and build their immunity. People here say that swimming is an extra-curricular activity, there it is a life skill so it is mandatory for kids to take a dip into the pool. Teachers take children to canteens and show them how to sit, eat their own food and clean, which is also learning for us,” he says.
Finnish teachers don’t have textbooks, they are given learning outcomes to achieve as per age and a broad syllabus. Every ten days, they sit down and prepare a plan which basically involves activities, through which they teach kids.
“There is a misconception that children who study through this model are weak at academics, on the contrary, their concepts are very clear. The curriculum is flexible but not haphazard, it is very structured and years of deep research have gone into designing it. The content is the same, the syllabus is there, but the teaching method is different. For example, a geography class happens in a lab, when they learn about a country’s entire ecosystem. They don’t have bifurcation of subjects, so when a student is learning about a country’s ecology, some biology lessons might be added. Or when they learn maths, they learn coding basics too. Coding is not a separate subject. The Finnish way does not differentiate (subjects) as biology, chemistry, science…the way they are taught is very different,” he said.
While most Indian classrooms have a common thread in form of centrally drawn syllabus that allows teachers little room for experimentation and more importantly, a highly competitive examination system, there are no exams in the Finnish model.
“There is no six month or annual syllabus test. Every day the child walks in, there is an assessment based on what they have learnt and parents get the feedback. In terms of teacher growth, there are landmarks and benchmarks which are set for learning outcomes. Anyway, in India too, after NEP 2020, final board exams will become redundant as students will get admissions through centralised common entrance tests,” said Goenka.
In fact, 80 per cent teaching faculty at the FIS will come from Finland – a big reason that contributes towards the ‘premium’ fee to be charged for each student, apart from the extensive course material needed. With an approximate fee of Rs 1.5 lakh for nursery, Rs 2-2.5lakh for junior/senior kg, Rs 4- Rs 4.5 lakh for Grade 1 to 2, ask Goenka if he has concerns over finding takers for the school and he says, “People who want to make their kids future ready will invest in it. We (Finnish curriculum) are not responding to what is the need today but to what skills are needed in our children to face up to whatever will be the situation 20 years from now. The curriculum in Finland is not stagnant, it is revised regularly and after deep research and insights from education experts,” he said.