If you have been listening or reading the news recently, you will have heard of a study conducted by PISA (program for international student assessment) on the academic achievement level of 15 year olds all over the world. Despite the fact that Finland gives less homework than many other nations, they do not have many standardized tests and children do not start school until the age of 7, they rank consistently among the top in terms of academic performance.
So, let me get this straight. High school students in Finland hardly ever have more than a half hour of homework a night, and are doing just fine, thank you very much, while I struggle for at least an hour each night with my 7 and 9 year olds in a futile attempt to cram information in their tired and over stimulated brains that, if given half the chance, they would learn easily on their own? Hmmm.
Here is a quote from Ellen Gamerman’s article:
The academic prowess of Finland’s students has lured educators from more than 50 countries in recent years to learn the country’s secret, including an official from the U.S. Department of Education. What they find is simple but not easy: well-trained teachers and responsible children. Early on, kids do a lot without adults hovering. And teachers create lessons to fit their students.
So. Here are the lessons to be learned:
- Stop hovering over our children and trying to control their every movement for one. Helicopter parenting out, laissez faire parenting in.
- Let them figure out for themselves who they are and how best they learn. This means give them some time, for pete’s sake! Let’s stop over scheduling our children. They should not need a blackberry until they are at least thirty, and then they should be sufficiently wary of such a tool.
- Stop making education a competition and lower the pressure to always be on top. In terms of Finland, this means making it free. And not having an Ivy league. Everybody can go, so there is less need to stress out about getting in. Obviously, this has not deterred Finnish students from exceling so why should it here in Canada?
- Make higher education accessible to everyone and not just a privilege of the rich. Narrow the gap between rich and poor? No! That’s just crazy talk! How could that ever help?
- Train the teachers better and let them choose how they will interpret the curriculum. More freedom in the classroom, hey? Let the teachers adapt the program to the students, hey? Sounds like communist propaganda to me.
- Most importantly, leave the kids alone. They are smarter than we think.
So what do I tell my 9 year old when she tells me she doesn’t think she is doing enough?
Maybe we should move to Finland…