Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

In This Country, We're So Far off the Finnish Line

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

In This Country, We're So Far off the Finnish Line

Article excerpt

My son lives in Helsinki with his Finnish wife and two sons, aged 4 and 1. He recently sent me a booklet entitled "Information on comprehensive schools in Finland". As a former headteacher who is still passionate about education, I was fascinated. Here are a few of the headlines:

-- Finnish children officially start school at 7, before which most take a year of preschool. My eldest grandson started at day care aged 2 and will continue into preschool in the same building.

-- From 7, all children must complete 10 years of basic education, including those who are home educated. They are awarded a certificate and can then apply for advanced education. This includes a choice of academic or vocational routes, and both options can lead to university.

-- Most children attend schools close to home but, if not, public transport is excellent and subsidised. Schools are free and materials are provided, with the exception of course books. Pupils are lent these and if they lose them their parents get the bill. Schools are not responsible for items that pupils lose.

-- If a child moves to Finland and can't speak Finnish, an interpreter is provided, as well as Finnish lessons. Pupils can dress however they but they must have warm and waterproof coats because breaks are held outside in all weathers. …

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