CHENNAI: Finnish educator Petri Lounaskorpi says the educational system in Finland believes in the concept ‘less is more’, be it the length of a lesson, coverage of syllabus or school hours. In Chennai recently to launch the Finnish technique of education in Vidhya Sagar Primary School for the next academic year, he discusses the pitfalls of Indian education with CE. Excerpts follow…
What can Finland adopt from the Indian educational system?
The way you have implemented yoga in your curriculum! Finland does not have yoga. We have various forms of physical education, though.
From grade one to nine, two hours every week is dedicated to physical education. The children learn all kinds of sports from skiing to badminton. Sports help develop motor skills and teach kids about competing, teamwork, and how to win or lose gracefully. But yoga helps in attaining peace of mind and we would like to have it.
In what aspects should India improve?
In Finland, we do not have a standardised national test. A teacher evaluates a child according to his or her capacity. They have formative tests and examinations but don’t compete with each other like they do in India.
Evaluation is always individual — it shows how much a child has developed. Also, we also don’t hand out grades until they are 12 or 14 years. Kids here are taught to read and write when they’re just three years. The brain develops enough to grasp the concept of reading and writing only when they’re six or seven. In Finland, children are sent to school only at that age. Below that, they’re sent to kindergarten.
Tell us more about ‘less is more’.
One of the basic pillars of our system is ‘less is more’! All teachers use methods that were used on them and parents also think this is the best way to learn, even as the world outside continues to change at a rapid pace. But the children in schools today will be in society 10 to 15 years later.
‘Less is more’ is not about ‘just in case’ teaching, it’s about ‘just in time’ learning, which ensures that they have the skill to learn, find and manipulate information, and to think critically. The Indian syllabus is so voluminous. For instance, why should you study Shakespeare? Even British schools don’t study it!
You have been instrumental in training on information and communication technology since 1992. What should schools use technology?
In India, technology is used in the classrooms, but more like furniture. The teachers do not know how to use it and neither are they taught to. In Finnish schools, 60% of the work is done through technology. Teachers are well trained and 45% of our books are e-books. Children are taught to use computers and the schools use four different cloud services.
The difference in teaching method between Finland and India?
In India, classes go on without a break for 45 minutes to an hour. In Finnish schools, after teaching for five to 10 minutes, students are given a break for 20 minutes and then get a 20-minute activity-based learning session. It is said that a child’s concentration span is only 10 minutes while in adults it is 20 minutes.
Beyond this time span, the child does not retain what is taught. We do have homework, but not in the way that it is done in India. Primary schools only work for 19 hours in a week. Before each class, students are given videos on the chapter to be taught in class. This is called phenomenon-based learning.
What should be the role of parents in education?
In Finland, we teach the parents and they work with the teachers. We have lecture session for parents and have evaluation and communication tools for them. They know what is happening in school and we keep in touch with them. Teachers and parents maintain good rapport. In India, I have often seen that the parents and teachers do not communicate regularly.
What do you have to say about the privatisation of schools in India?
All the schools in Finland are public, only 3-5% are private institutions. Education is free, even at higher levels. But in India, a majority of schools and colleges are private, which is disappointing. It is like a business in India.
Any suggestions for the Indian educational system?
Children should be understood – they are not robots. They have a lower concentration span than adults. Children ought to be children; they cannot be forced into double shifts. A day is enough for their studies. Home work is time-consuming in India...that has to change!