Friday, December 30, 2016

An English Summary of the Notice by the Finnish Embassy in Japan

Below is an English summary of the notice on the new core curriculum for Finnish schools, issued by the Finnish Embassy in Japan in August, 2016. 
This summary was made as a reference material for "The Finnish Embassy in Japan is Warning against the Fake News about Finnish Education."


Finnish Schools Change like This: 10 Questions and Answers (in Japanese)

The cache as of December, 2016: 

The new core curriculum for compulsory basic education in Finland is gathering attention worldwide. While it is reported in Japan that the programming is introduced in Finnish schools, some confusion has been made by misreports of the Western media saying, for example, that Finland scraps all the school subjects. Under these circumstances, the Finnish Embassy in Japan prepared the question-and-answer-style notice about the new curriculum based on the article made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland.

Question 1: Is it true that all the subjects are scrapped and that the phenomenon-based learning is introduced in Finnish schools?

It is true that the phenomenon-based learning is introduced as one of the methods, but subjects such as math, history, music, etc. don’t disappear. It is required in the new curriculum to set up at least one multidisciplinary learning module covering more than one subject, in which pupils are supposed to learn a particular topic such as "Global Warming", "European Union", etc. for several weeks.

Question 2: I hear that the physical classroom setting is removed as well … 

Learning can take place outside of classrooms. Schools and teachers have initiative in deciding how the out-of-classroom learning should be carried out. Learning methods have changed. Pupils don’t need to sit still in the same room any longer. They can choose where and how to learn on their own.
Some newly-built schools don’t even have corridors. I wonder that we will not need the conventional enclosed classrooms in future because learning can take place anywhere.

Question 3: I hear that pupils set their own learning goals by themselves. If able children set unambitious goals to lead an easy school life, they will be spoiled?

It will not be the case. Learning goals and the criteria for high ability levels are clearly prescribed in the new curriculum. Pupils discuss and decide their own goal settings with teachers. One of the problems so far was that pupils didn't necessarily understand how their achievements were evaluated. We expect that we can raise their motivation by involving them in the discussion of goal setting.

Question 4: Memorization is denied?

Some learning, such as learning the multiplication tables, requires memorization. However, the new curriculum focuses on the necessary skills for future life, such as critical thinking, learning-to-learn, how to use new technologies, etc. rather than repeating teachers’ words.

Question 5: Old useful methods are abandoned in the new curriculum?

What makes Finland’s education different from those in other countries is that communities, schools or teachers can decide what and how to learn for pupils. The Initiative in deciding the learning methods and what is best for pupils rests in the place where pupils learn. Many people in the world seem to mistake Finland as a socialist country where every decision is made in top-down style.

Question 6: No homework at all?
There is homework. Since less time spent in learning in Finland than in other countries, we think pupils should review the lessons at home.

Question 7: I hear that exams and quizzes don’t exist, either.

We have exams, but the academic report cards don’t only reflect the exam results. Students are evaluated continuously, guided appropriately and supported. Exams are part of learning but not the key. Proof of learning can be seen in the form of project implementation and presentation. Even if one fails in an exam, he or she can learn many things in the preparation for re-examinations.

Question 8: The new curriculum increases teachers’ workload?

It is true that we need to change the teaching method, which will take some time. The biggest challenge is to change the teachers’ role: teachers will not be mere knowledge providers, and students will not be passive listeners any more. We wish to turn schools into communities for learning each other, where even adults can learn from children.

Question 9: Programming has become a compulsory subject since this school year. At least teachers need know-hows of programming?

Programming is introduced not as independent subject but transversally into all the subjects. Although it is learned more frequently in math than in other subjects, it appears in music and physical education as well.
In first and second grades, pupils learn how to command and message accurately, and logical thinking. From third to sixth grades, they learn easy programme behaviors by using computers or tablets, and from seventh to ninth grades, they work on algorithm and learn at least one program language.
Teachers don’t need to be familiar with programming. They are expected to be facilitators. What they should do is to prepare the environment in which students can learn freely through trials and errors, and sometimes guide them.

Question 10: The new curriculum can possibly damage the reputation of Finland’s education as world top education in the OECD PISA ranking?

It possibly can, but so what? The PISA ranking is of little importance according to the Finnish way of thinking. The PISA is something like blood-pressure gauge, which is useful for checking what we are heading for, but it is not the ultimate goal. We don’t have the PISA ranking in our mind when we make educational decisions. What is important is the knowledge that our children and young people will need in future.



Related Links:

 "The Finnish Embassy in Japan is Warning against the Fake News about Finnish Education"

Subject teaching in Finnish schools is not being abolished:



  1. Good for Finland! This was my education, high school and college ... in the 1940s and 50s. Now that I am nearing 80 years old, I realize that the kind of education (and educators) that I had made my life so varied and exciting, leaving me open to all kinds of experiences and subjects, to finding balance, judgment, ways to communicate, and the ability to analyze situations socially as well as professionally (including working seven wonderful years in Japan), across several generations. That open, all-encompassing education was the basis of my success and happiness -- my mental and (probably) physical health today. I find this is true with my schoolmates as well.


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