28.09.2016, Ellimaija Ahonen
Less is more – a point of view from USA
This summer, one Study Tour participant decided to take a field trip to a faraway place to learn about the most successful and efficient school system in the world. Mr. Rickbeil from Maryland, USA wanted to see how a different culture educates their kids. He wanted to learn from Finnish successes and see what aspects of their educational system are applicable to American schools. His journey took him over 4,200 miles away to a small country on the North coast of the Baltic Sea, to Finland.
“In my 16 days in Finland, I was constantly surrounded by a people and a country where less is more. The city of Helsinki contained fewer skyscrapers than any big city I have ever seen, with two modest Cathedrals setting the skyline for the city. The Finnish people live in modest homes and apartments, retreating to small cottages in nature as their favorite vacation spot. Finland was a good destination for business travel and relaxing, and people genuinely seem to enjoy a slower pace of life.
This culture of “less is more” permeates their education system as well. Children start their formal schooling in first grade at the age of seven with hours that resemble my half-day kindergarten back in the 1980’s. Finnish students take recess several times per day, with law mandating a 15-minute break after each 45-minute class. Doing the math, this adds up to as many as six recesses a day in a common middle school schedule. Finnish teachers spend significantly fewer hours teaching the week and more time collaborating with other Finnish teachers over warm cups of coffee. Visiting Finnish middle schools, it was not uncommon to find foodball and ping pong tables in the hallways, as students needed something to do with all of their break time in the middle of the day.
The most amazing thing about their “less is more” philosophy is that it worked. I knew about their approach, their recesses, and their efficiency in class. What surprised me was their rationale behind their approach. Finnish children do not get so many breaks because it lightens their load or because guilty Finnish adults worry too much about the stresses on today’s youth. The breaks and “less is more” mentality is emphasized because it gets results.”
Read Mr. Rickbeilś post of a five-part series of educational trip to Finland here.