Imagine a class where there are no scripted lessons, children are allowed to have fun, giggle and even daydream from time to time.
Finland are known for their repeated success in national education rankings, their approach to schooling is radical and features a number of practices not widely used in the UK or US. Children start formal education at age 7, there are short school hours, light homework and no exams.
“There is a lot of variety in learning situations,” Reino, Tapaninen, chief architect at the National Agency for Education said. “Teachers can decide at the beginning of the month or week, or even at the beginning of the school day, how they want to work.”
Kastelli School and Community Centre located in Oulu, Finland, is one of 100 schools that have decided to take it one step further. They have adopted the flexible mindset that open learning spaces are better than walled-off classrooms. As a result, the school incorporates an open plan model, mixing students of different ages and cross-teaching subjects. The school’s interior features long hallways, soft chairs, big cushions, moveable walls and partitions for private discussions.
Reino Tapaninen, chief architect at the National Agency for Education said: “We’ve given up the old type of school desk and chair and have a real diversity now.” To make sure that there is minimal noise disruption, an acoustic designer works on the layout of the school. “We are using more acoustic materials on the ceilings, while textile flooring has become more popular — the materials are much better than they used to be, and now far easier to clean.” Tapaninen goes on to say that: “We now have what we call ‘shoe-less schools,’ where pupils either change into softer shoes or simply wear socks when they come indoors.”
Will the architecture lead to a better scholastic experience? We’ll just have to wait and see. What we do know is that there are certainly a few lessons to be learned from Finland’s radical approach to learning.