Learning for life, the Finnish way

The outdoors of Maininki School in Espoo city. Once the bell rings at 2pm across schools in Finland, students indulge in pastimes like ice hockey and music. There are no private tuition programmes. Photo: Ng Jing Yng
No tuition, only one major exam (with six hours given per paper) and classes that mix kids of all abilities. We discover how they do it, in our two-part special report.
Published: 3:59 AM, March 5, 2013
Updated: 1:53 PM, October 22, 2013
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Mention private tuition, and one gets a bemused look from Finnish educators, pupils and parents. This is unheard of in their country, they say. When school ends, so do the lessons.

Once bell rings at 2pm across schools in Finland, children run to the park to indulge in snowball fights or pastimes like ice hockey and music. The only group missing out on the fun, when TODAY visited last month shortly before the matriculation exam (the only national assessment in Finland), were the 18-year-olds, who duly trooped home to revise.

Mr Juha Korhonen, who has three children, did not know of any tuition programmes in Finland. “Even if there were, I wouldn’t send my kids … Children need free time and rest after school and homework,” he said.

Homework for Finnish students consists of a few Math problems or perhaps essay assignments. For the minority who have trouble keeping up, teachers provide remedial lessons after school.

As Professor Jouni Valijarvi, an expert in international tests such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), notes: “In Finland, school is the only place where students study.” This has been the tradition, said the Director of Finnish Institute for Educational Research: “Children mark a very clear difference between school time and their free time.”

Even the after-school sports or arts activities that students engage in — and which are managed by private or community organisations — are clearly treated as hobbies, and not the mandated co-curricular activities of Singapore schools.

Hanna Korhonen, 13, trains in figure skating because “I enjoy it very much and I hope to be a professional skater someday”.


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