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No more physics and maths, Finland to stop teaching individual subjects

The future is all about learning by topic, not subject.

FIONA MACDONALD
24 MAR 2015
 

Finland, one of the leading educational hotspots in the world, is embarking on one of the most radical overhauls in modern education. By 2020, the country plans to phase out teaching individual subjects such as maths, chemistry and physics, and instead teach students by 'topics' or broad phenomena, so that there's no more question about "what's the point of learning this?"

What does that mean exactly? Basically, instead of having an hour of geography followed by an hour of history, students will now spend, say, two hours learning about the European Union, which covers languages, economics, history and geography. Or students who are taking a vocational course might study 'cafeteria services', which would involve learning maths, languages and communication skills, as Richard Garner reports for The Independent. So although students will still learn all the important scientific theories, they'll be finding out about them in a more applied way, which actually sounds pretty awesome.

 

"What we need now is a different kind of education to prepare people for working life," Pasi Silander, the Helsinki's development manager, told Garner. "Young people use quite advanced computers. In the past the banks had lots of bank clerks totting up figures but now that has totally changed. We therefore have to make the changes in education that are necessary for industry and modern society."

The new system also encourages different types of learning, such as interactive problem solving and collaborating among smaller groups, to help develop career-ready skills. "We really need a rethinking of education and a redesigning of our system, so it prepares our children for the future with the skills that are needed for today and tomorrow," Marjo Kyllonen, Helsinki’s education manager, who is leading the change, told Garner.

"There are schools that are teaching in the old fashioned way which was of benefit in the beginnings of the 1900s - but the needs are not the same and we need something fit for the 21st century," she added.

Individual subjects started being phased out for 16-year-olds in the country's capital of Helsinki two years ago, and 70 percent of the city's high school teachers are now trained in the new approach. Early data shows that students are already benefitting, with The Independent reporting that measurable pupil outcomes have improved since the new system was introduced. And Kyllonen's blueprint, which will be published later this month, will propose that the new system is rolled out across Finland by 2020.   

Of course, there is some backlash from teachers who've spent their entire career specialising in certain subjects. But the new blueprint suggests that teachers from different backgrounds work together to come up with the new 'topic' curriculums, and will receive a pay incentive for doing so.

Finland already has one of the best education systems in the world, consistently falling near the top of the prestigious PISA rankings in maths, science and reading, and this change could very well help them stay there. 

Source: The Independent

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