The ever-changing world also challenges the school and teaching to change. Although documentarist Michael Moore praises the Finnish education system as brilliant and, in a good way, child-centered, we still have room for improvement.
Internationally, the learning results of Finnish students are high, but surprisingly many students do not feel comfortable in school. In a comparative study conducted between nearly 40 countries, Finland was among the weakest third when asked whether the students enjoyed school. For example, in other Nordic countries school is enjoyed much more than in Finland. (Finnish National Board of Education: International Comparison of School Experiences 2010).
Is it necessary to feel comfortable at school? Absolutely because if schoolwork is boring, learning will suffer.
The new curriculum is based on the idea that the best way for people to learn is by being active themselves. Instead of drowning the students in information, the students will learn to seek information in different ways, to compile it and to learn together while teaching one another: “The school works as a learning community and encourages all members to learn. The learning community develops through dialogue. Cooperation and experiences of involvement strengthen the community.” (Curriculum 2016)
The most important task of the school is to provide tools for thinking and learning. The children learn to respect both their own culture and the cultures of others, to express themselves and to converse with others. They have diverse reading skills and they are also able to understand information visually and know how to use technology creatively and safely. All of these skills are working life skills of the future.
As the role of the learner changes, so changes the job of the teacher. The teacher has an important role as a supporter and instructor. The teacher helps the students to understand their goals and to find their personal strengths. This new way of doing, that combines different subjects, demands a lot from the teachers and the school. They need both tools and teacher training. The teachers need good digital skills as well as support in other new ways of doing their work. Traditional classrooms should also be redesigned to better support different learning styles.
The learning environments based on modern approaches to learning differ from traditional industrial society classrooms. Desk rows should be transformed into more living room-like learning spaces where learning is more communal: “School space solutions, including furniture, equipment and materials, can support the pedagogic development of teaching and the active participation of students.” (Curriculum 2016).
An adaptable learning environment, which can serve many purposes, enables various working methods: sharing information among the whole group, group and pair work and the opportunity for independent work that takes into account the personal abilities and strengths of the students. It is important to take different personality types into consideration and acknowledge that differences between people and groups exist. At its best, the space will consider, support and strengthen the children’s unique and personal learning styles.
The new Curriculum 2016 will not necessarily make everyone “a straight-A student”, but it will hopefully help to raise a balanced and happy generation of people who have a positive image of themselves and their learning.
Karin Mäkitalo, Tilassa Ltd
The writer is an interior architect specialized in designing learning spaces that support natural movement. Her passion is to plan spaces that create well-being for their users.