The walls are coming down in Finland’s schools – but not just the physical barriers between classrooms, according to the World Economic Forum. Also going are divisions between subjects and age ranges, and students have more of a say over what will be learnt than children in many other countries.
According to CityLab, an architecture website, the country is undergoing an ambitious national redesign of its 4,800 schools. Some 57 new schools began construction in 2015 and 44 in 2016. Others are being refurbished using open-plan principles.
Reino Tapaninen, chief architect at Finland’s Department of Education, told CityLab that design prevents the space from being excessively loud, with a “lot of soft chairs, big cushions, rocking chairs, sofas, as well as moveable walls and partitions behind which you can hide yourself for private discussions”.
The traditional desks and chairs have disappeared, instead there are spaces where different age ranges gather to share their learning. Finland’s schools teach mixed-year groups (or grades), and from an early age children have more say in what their weekly lessons will be comprised of.
Last year, Education Week ran an interview with Finland’s education minister, Sanni Grahn-Laasonen, in which she outlined some of the changes being introduced, including the move away from subjects being taught in separate “silos” to “multidisciplinary” learning.
Finland’s freer style of education has been widely hailed a success. Though the country has slipped in the international PISA education rankings in recent years, it is still far ahead of most of its European peers in maths, science and reading.
Finland thinks it has designed the perfect school. This is what it looks like (World Economic Forum)