By Sun Kim
Posting in Design
The nation's schools offer lessons on how and what kind of environments encourage successful learning.
Recently students in Finland have been ranking as high or higher than the Asian academic superpowers, and the world, particularly the western world, has been paying attention. A new exhibit showcasing seven Finnish schools offers new lessons on how and what kind of environments encourage successful learning.
In an article for Education Week, Sarah Sparks writes that the director general of the Center for International Mobility and Cooperation at Finland's education ministry, Pasi Sahlberg, outlined the country's three-fold approach to academic achievement. The strategies include creating and applying a high quality academic curriculum and providing equal access to education (there are no private schools in Finland). The third, surprising, strategy Sahlberg credits is designing an appropriate environment. Design, he says, is integral to the overall success of the system.
The Best School in the World showcases seven Finnish schools and their move from factory-style schools (those with classrooms lining hallways and desks in rows) to contemporary campuses. The schools follow guidelines set by the Finnish Board of Education for a proper learning environment that is "physically, psychologically, and socially safe, promoting the child's growth, health, and learning as well as their positive interaction with teachers and fellow pupils.
Some of the design elements, which give priority to providing the right kinds of spaces for different kinds of work and providing lots of natural light, include
- spacious lounges and work areas so teachers have space for casual meetings and quiet places for preparing lessons
- clustered buildings with lots of interior and exterior gathering spaces
- light filled atriums that connect teachers' areas to classrooms
- outdoor courtyards that are sheltered from wind but provide sight lines to supervise students
- large floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights
Adopting the East Asian model for academic success is difficult to promote in the west. The long hours of study and emphasis on memorization would take a huge cultural shift. But creating better school environments is feasible and judging from the Finnish model, effective.
Finland Rethinks Factory-Style School Buildings [Education Week]
Jul 11, 2012
I cringe to think that some "genius" American "educator" will come away with "we just need better facilities." Anyone interested should do a web search on "Finland education." Some pertinent items gleaned from Wikipedia: 1) At 16, students can either drop out, go to trade-oriented high school, or go to academic-oriented high school. 2) Class sizes are rarely more than 20, and frequently lower. 3) Teachers get paid quite well, but are required to have a masters degree. They are treated with respect by students, parents, and administrators. Just getting into a teachers' certification program is highly competitive, and it doesn't guarantee a teaching job. 4) High school students buy their own books and materials. 5) Students age 4-16 are given regular instruction in art, music, phys ed, carpentry, cooking, metal-working, etc. In other words, the schools do NOT expect every kid to go to college. Lastly, when you look into it more closely, you see that everything isn't wonderful in Finland. They have their problems too.
"Adopting the East Asian model for academic success is difficult to promote in the west. The long hours of study and emphasis on memorization would take a huge cultural shift. But creating better school environments is feasible and judging from the Finnish model, effective". The US public school system is stuck in the "mud of undecidedness" .....just like Congress and it filters all the way down to state and local government.
Living in Finland and having gone through our education system myself, I can testify that our schools very rarely look like the one in the picture, that's a unique exception. Our teachers are just the same as everywhere else, some good, some bad, most are mediocre. What makes a difference though is that we are so damn stubborn. If a techer says that this or that can't be done, we don't care and we try different approaches until we get it to work. I remember lots of times when I had some idea about something, and more often than not the teachers said, "it can't be done". Well, more often than not I proved them wrong. Most of our schools are boring boxes made of brick, with a tiny schoolyard not big enough for all students to fit in at the same time. Since we have severe cold winters when there are only 4-5 hours of daylight, what else is there to do than study. In our two months of summer it's different, the sun doesn't even set in some parts of the country. What dmm99 wrote is spot on (except point five, it's age 7-16), probably another finn, or someone who has been to Finland.