Subjects do not disappear in the new Finnish comprehensive school curriculum

education-univ-jyvaskyla-nov-2016Jyväskylä, Finland. Instruction subjects do NOT disappear in the new FINNISH peruskoulu curriculum. What happens is that the new curriculum for compulsory school education (effective as of 2016 for grades 1 to 6, and as of 2017 for grades 7 to 9) reinforces “multidisciplinary learning modules” where “integrative instruction” is promoted during all school years. Good to excellent teachers have known for a long time that multidisciplinary teaching and learning helps to connect subjects to real life experiences, “phenomena” or “themes” as the Finnish curriculum calls them.

Teachers then use projects based on themes or class teaching plans that promote not only the knowledge of curriculum subjects but also transversal competences, i.e., those abilities that students need to develop in order to solve new problems and propose innovative solutions. Cross-fertilization from different subjects can help indeed. But teachers need to know their subjects in depth, and nobody is proposing their elimination (for the list of subjects in the new Finnish curriculum please look HERE). It is more about pedagogy than getting rid of subjects.

In my opinion the new curriculum stresses three basic ideas: 1) invite teachers to combine subjects simultaneously or sequentially with the help of themes or phenomena; 2) cooperation, communication and coordination among teachers; 3) connection between theory, teaching and learning and real life examples meaningful to students’ own reality and context. For example, a theme for a class or school year or school project may be “water” or “pollution.” Both themes include aspects studied by different subjects: chemistry, biology, natural resources, physics, mathematics, law, social sciences, etc. Another theme may be “Art in the twentieth century”, and the subjects could be: art, history, social sciences, humanities, civilization. Another one, with a lot of meaning in Suomi is “Finland 100” as the Finnish will celebrate 100 years of independence in 2017.

Still, an integrative different project for a student or school, could be the production of a video, short film or feature film. In both cases, many subjects could be involved with teachers as guiding mentoring or active engagement. An example close to full integrative teaching is what happens in multigrade instruction. At the extreme we might think of multigrade and multi-subject instruction, almost impossible to implement specially in secondary schools.

Schools in Finland are real jewels, and yet teachers are still finding the way to understand the day-to-day strategies to implement, of even more, to integrative teaching and learning, and to understand the new policies for the evaluation and assessment of students. Finns are getting more into formative assessment than before and want teachers to get away from summative or grade assessments at least for grades 1 to 7. In grades 8 to 9 teachers will have to use grade but also formative and self-assessment evaluations. Finns are getting more Finnish than before.

Portada SPRINGER 2014

Therefore, subjects will not disappear; university programs and the deep knowledge required by degree specializations would have to disappear first. What will change is the pedagogy (integrative instruction plus seven transversal competences, plus more formative assessment) not the content or depth of knowledge.

 

 

By the way, if you want to know about teachers in Finland and how they impact student achievement, you may want to read THIS PAPER

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