You may have heard that Finnish children have the highest academic scores in the world. But the way these results are achieved may surprise you.
First of all, Finland promotes less homework and more creative play.
Secondly, the Finns have removed competition from their school system. They don’t have private schools or standardized testing. Teachers are trained to assess children using tests they create themselves.
What might be working best for Finland is that the country focuses on equity rather than excellence. Finnish society operates on the premise that every child should have the same opportunity to learn, regardless of geographic location, family background, or socioeconomic status.
We might never have the same kind of education system as Finland, but the country’s emphasis on these principles of play, equity, and removing competition hold some valuable lessons.
For example, play is one of the most important foundations of physical literacy. When we increase our kids’ play time we’re helping them develop fundamental movement skills. Children who develop these skills properly from an early age, and who engage in regular physical activity ― like walking to school ― will not only be healthier, they’ll be liable to do better academically. Schools and parents could all agree to turn down the pressure and give kids the time they need to play without worrying that they’ll fall behind.
Removing competition for young kids has also been proven to help them focus on skill development and fun, which are both key in predicting whether children will stay engaged in physical activity.
And, when it comes to equity, we have seen that one way to level the playing field in terms of making sure all kids develop skills, is to focus on non-traditional physical activities instead of team sports ― along with non-competitive games ― so that kids with varying interests and abilities are able to participate.
If both parents and schools take note of these lessons, with some minor shifts, we can help our Canadian children achieve great success, too.