Finland’s Schools and Montessori

On November 11, 2016 the Finnish National Board of Education issued the following clarification about changes to their public school curriculum:

“The news that Finland is abolishing teaching separate subjects has recently been an issue in the international press. Subject teaching is not being abolished although the new core curriculum for basic education brought some changes in August 2016. The subjects common to all students in basic education are stipulated in the Basic Education Act, and the allocation of lesson hours among school subjects is prescribed in the Decree given by the Government. However, education providers have had a high degree of freedom in implementing nationally set objectives for more than twenty years. They may develop their own innovative methods, which can differ from those in other municipalities.

The new core curriculum for basic education that was implemented in schools in August 2016 contain some changes which might have given rise to the misunderstanding of abolishing separate school subjects. In order to meet the challenges of the future, the focus is on transversal (generic) competences and work across school subjects. Collaborative classroom practices, where pupils may work with several teachers simultaneously during periods of phenomenon-based project studies are emphasized.

The pupils should participate each year in at least one such multidisciplinary learning module. These modules are designed and implemented locally. The core curriculum also states that the pupils should be involved in the planning.

Although this clarification backs off the assertion that Finland is “abandoning the teaching of subjects”, it nevertheless affirms a national shift in educational priorities – a shift that is markedly “Montessori” in nature. The fact that municipalities and individual schools have freedom in implementing nationally set objectives is the starting point. But specifics such as the focus on “transversal” competencies and work across school subjects certainly echo Maria Montessori’s concept of cosmic education. Furthermore, the emphasis on dynamic classrooms where students work with various teachers in a collaborative setting on real world project studies reflects the trend in Montessori middle and high schools across the USA. The fact that Finnish students will be required to participate in one multi-disciplinary module each year, and also required to be involved in the planning of their learning modules, calls to mind the holistic instructional model and the focus on students as drivers of their own learning that Maria Montessori made central to her educational approach.

Education policy makers in the United States would do well to take Finland’s lead and begin to transform public school classrooms in to places where students learn subject matter in connected ways, are engaged by having choices and taking leadership, and learn 21st century skills like collaboration, creative thinking and information literacy. These 21st century skills are the core competencies of the curricula at Montessori middle and high schools, including Oneness-Family Montessori High School of Washington – opening 2107.



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