The Pedagogy Strikes Back

Transversal Competences – maybe the most important part of Finnish Curriculum reform

”Transversal competence refers to an entity consisting of knowledge, skills, values, attitudes and will. Competence also means an ability to apply knowledge and skills in a given situation. The manner in which the pupils will use their knowledge and skills is influenced by the values and attitudes they have adopted and their willingness to take action. The increased need for transversal competence arises from changes in surrounding world. Competences that cross the boundaries of and link different fields of knowledge and skills are a precondion for personal growth, studying, work and civic activity now and the future” – National Core Curriculum for basic education, Finland, 2016.

The learning goals of the transversal competences are described as seven competence areas:

  • Thinking and learning to learn
  • Cultural competence, interaction and self-expression
  • Taking care of oneself and managing daily life
  • Multiliteracy
  • ICT competence
  • Working life competence and enterpreneurship
  • Participation, involvement and building a sustainable future

Local authorities and schools are encouraged to promote the development of these competences and to consider their own innovative ways in reaching the goals. The core curricula for subjects have been written so that learning objectives include the competence goals which are most important for the said objectives. The competences will also be assessed as a part of subject assessment. In this way every school subject enhances the development of all seven competence areas. This is a new way of combining competence-based and subject-based teaching and learning. Nevertheless, the traditional school subjects will live on, though with less distinct borderlines and with more collaboration in practice between them, says Mrs Irmeli Halinen, who worked as head of curriculum development in National Board of Education.

In order to meet the challenges of the future, the focus is on transversal 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 in basic education 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. Still the news that Finland is abolishing teaching separate subjects is not the truth. Subject teaching is not being abolished although the new core curriculum for basic education brought up those transversal competences and phenomen-based studies in schools everyday work. We have the subjects stipulated in the Basic Education Act, and the allocation of lesson hours among school subjects is prescribed in the Decree given by the Government.

The focus in education system is although changed from question ”What” to question ”How”. In a way we may call the reform by epic name: ”The Pedagogy Strikes Back”

Juha Lahtinen