|Finland teaches religion in their classrooms|
It is widely accepted that Finland has a wonderful education system. The evidence comes from PISA, an international measure of 15-year-old educational achievement. South Korea has similar results from a very rigid school system, but Americans look more to the Finnish education system to learn things.
So I was interested to read the perspective of an American teaching in Finland, one who went to visit a kindergarten.
“Play is a very efficient way of learning for children,” she told me. “And we can use it in a way that children will learn with joy.” The word “joy” caught me off guard—I’m certainly not used to hearing the word in conversations about education in America, where I received my training and taught for several years. But Holappa, detecting my surprise, reiterated that the country’s early-childhood education program indeed places a heavy emphasis on “joy,” which along with play is explicitly written into the curriculum as a learning concept. "There's an old Finnish saying,” Holappa said. “Those things you learn without joy you will forget easily.”What an interesting philosophy. Their little ones aren't pushed towards reading - they get help if they want it and ask for it. I went to Montessori, and I was the same way. We learned the alphabet as sounds, not letters, and I could read when I was 4, purely by rhyming and asking for help.
I understand that the intention of the Common Core was to help our students, but I am worried that it's had the opposite effect. It's the most efficient for teachers to teach to the test, to cover the subjects which are required, but I wonder what the cost of that is. I know that I certainly took classes - such as Introduction to Philosophy - which I did not need for my diploma under Indiana standards but did need under my school's.
Literacy is very important, but so is learning ideas that you'll keep later on. I also wonder if Finnish is easier to acquire than English. I've often cited the study that showed that Italian was much easier for children to pick up than English, because English has a mess of rules that are not rules. Italian is far more regular, and perhaps Finnish is the same way. Italian takes months to learn how to read, in contrast to the years that it takes for English. We've tried to accelerate American kindergarteners knowing that their literacy in third or fourth grade will play a large role in where they are going forward.
I've said this before, too: I intend to teach my children to read in Spanish first. It's much easier to read than English, and I've taught people to read in Spanish as well as English before. Spanish is easier to teach.
We complain about childhood obesity, when we force children to sit in desks and stay there from a very young age. Recess - or physical activity time - needs to be a much larger part of the school day. It's unsurprising that a culture that's been taught to be sedentary from age 5 is growing larger and larger.
We need to find the right balance between teaching our children what they must learn and making school an enjoyable experience.