I have many times been asked suggestions as how a particular school or an education institute could implement the Finnish model or the Finnish curriculum in its practices. My answer always is that in order to give any recommendations, I should first know your current situation and the context of your education.
There may be some binding regulations that cannot be changed, such as national education policies with a strict national curriculum, which doesn’t give a space for an individually designed school curriculum. In these cases, the implementation needs to be done within the framework of the education philosophy the national curriculum represents.
They are not, however, only the national policies that have an effect on how your teaching and learning are organised but also the culture and history of the context and the current operational culture of your school play a crucial role.
Once when I asked what you want to achieve by implementing a Finnish curriculum, I was answered: “We want to do well in PISA.”
OECD’s PISA study seems to be a popular measurement for good education and we all know that it is mainly thanks to the Finnish children’s good performance in this OECD’s study that the Finnish education model has achieved its current reputation.
However, Finland has never designed its education policies in order to well in PISA – nor have our education policies changed because of the results of PISA studies. The changes in curriculum and in education policies have been made to better answer the challenges of the contemporary society and the world as a whole; to better prepare our children to the world around them.
By taking a “succeeding in PISA study” as a goal, you wouldn’t necessarily change anything fundamental in your current education. In some cases, instead of focusing on doing well in the national exam, you would focus on doing well in a PISA study. When a PISA study may well be argued to be a better goal as being a better measurement for students’ skills and abilities, we need to remember that PISA does not really include study on teaching and learning processes.
Our educational goals reflect our educational philosophy and these goals, in turn, guide our teaching and show how we understand learning: in the so called Finnish model, the purpose of learning is less to know how to do something as to know how to learn. The aim of Finnish education is to learn to cope with new, unknown, unforeseen situations. As the world is constantly changing, learning never ends.
When planning any education framed activities, you need to carefully consider the context where education takes place. The Finnish education model cannot be transferred as such into a totally different context. There are, however, lots of elements that can be implemented regardless of the context. A good start would be to define the educational goals and to plan how best to achieve them. This is one of my areas of expertise.