What Can We Learn from the Scandinavian Education Model and how to Apply this at Home with Our Children?

Sixty-six percent of students in Finland go to college, which is the highest rate in the European Union. Also, ninety-three percent of students graduate from academic or vocational high schools, which is 17.5 percent higher than the United States. However, this Scandinavian country spends 30% less per student than the U.S.

These are some of the country’s many achievements in education that came as results of Finland’s education system’s transformation some 40 years ago.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test administered to students in more than 40 locations globally, in 2000 showed that Finish students were the best in the world when it comes to reading. On 2003 PISA test they achieved the best results in math. And in 2006, Finish youth were first out of 57 countries in science.

So, what is the Scandinavian secret of school success?

Lots of Play

Elementary school students enjoy 75 minutes of recess daily compared to an average of 27 minutes in the United States.

Furthermore, at Finish daycares, the emphasis is not on reading, writing or math but creative play. The main focus is on the promotion of health and well-being of every child. The purpose of daycare is to help children develop their social habits, to learn how to respect others and create positive relationships. In addition, a huge emphasis is on physical activity (at least 90 minutes a day).

Small science classes

Science classes have no more than 16 students, so each student is given the opportunity to perform experiments and gain practical knowledge and skills.

Non-Evaluation-Focused Education Model

Children in Finland don’t start school until they are 7. Furthermore, they rarely take exams until they are teenagers, and they take only one standardized test at the age of 16. School performance isn’t observed and graded. There are, however, annual development discussions with school leaders that provide feedback on a teacher’s own assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.

Additional Help

According to statistics, around 30 percent of elementary students receive extra help during the first nine years of school.

Skillful Teachers

The teachers are selected from the top 10% of the graduates. In addition, all teachers in Finland must have a Master’s degree, which the Government fully subsidizes.

What Can We Do at Home with Our Children?

In answer to the wide-reaching interest in the Scandinavian success, these countries have started to export their education model around the world. However, you don’t have to wait on the US education system to implement the Scandinavian model in school curriculums. You can use the guidelines of this educational model to help enhance your child’s education at home.

Allow for More Play Time

Allow your child a freedom to explore and learn through first-hand experience under your supervision. A play is necessary for a child’s healthy development and overall well-being. Unstructured play promotes cognitive development, encourages imagination, and enables exploration and discovery in a safe environment.

Furthermore, through play children learn about their surroundings, practice problem-solving, understand the cause and effect, and learn to anticipate and predict outcomes. Free play allows children to express and manage their feelings, develop empathy, and boost social skills. Finally, through play kids gain new skills by building new knowledge upon their existing experience.

Provide Opportunities for Children to Build and Create

Today’s job market increasingly searches for curiosity, problem solving and creativity, so children need to develop these skills to answer the job market demands when they reach adulthood. They need to learn how to think critically and be creative.

Engage children in project-based learning – help them find answers and create things with little guidance. They need a freedom to explore and be creators instead of consumers. Provide opportunities for kids to work with their hands and create things. Let them build their own toys. Also, let your child engage in sensory and motor activities and explore different textures and movements.

Moreover, don’t just convey information and answers to your child but encourage them to learn how to think instead. Project-based learning helps a deeper understanding of the world around them and boosts confidence as the child gains knowledge independently.

Encourage Communication and Collaboration

Play with your child and encourage collaboration. Create things together, take turns, and discuss the different stages of the creation process. Through play, children learn about different social roles and develop emotional control, social skills, and empathy.

Pretend play, for example, helps them express their needs and feelings. Furthermore, it enables them to learn how to positively relate to others, to collaborate and find constructive ways to manage conflict situations.

Encourage Imagination and Creativity

Kids need opportunities to be creative and look at problems and situations from a new perspective. Encourage your child to practice mindfulness and visualization – this helps boost self-esteem and enables a child to focus on his/her feelings. Visualization or mental rehearsal encourages imagination and boosts creative thinking.

Creative play such as art helps satisfy the child’s need for self-expression. Additionally, it helps fine motor development and enhances critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Also, creative games help children express their emotions, create stronger bonds with other children and adults and help them understand social rules. Furthermore, creative activities such as drama, for instance, help children think for themselves and work out answers – in short, encourages them to be creators.

Children should be encouraged to build the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century, such as creativity, critical thinking, communication and cooperation. STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is a great platform to prepare children for occupations of the 21st Century by boosting their problem-solving skills and developing critical thinking. STEM uses a combined learning background to show students how the science can be applied to real-life situations. And according to the U.S. Department of Commerce statistics, STEM professions are growing at 17 comparing to other jobs’ growth rate of 9.8 %.

To boosts children’s interest in STEM disciplines, help them be creators and critical thinkers at home. Allow independence, free play, exploration, and creation. Inspire children to grow into creators and innovators.