Sunday, September 09, 2018

Is less really more???

Yesterday my wife and I took the hop on, hop off bus to a variety of museums in the central part of Helsinki. As we passed the Sibelius memorial park, and a high school, the recording on the bus noted that  the schools of Finland are tourist attractions, and that educators from around the world come here to visit the schools and try to figure out what makes them tick in such a superb manner. The schools rank very high in the international PISA testing, which comes as a surprise to Americans who think heatedly that the more you cram into kids at an early age, the better.

Finnish schools begin reading at age 8 and by the time the students are tested in the Office of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) PISA studies, they far surpass American readers in 30% less time. Can that really be true? I have visits scheduled for Finnish Schools on Tuesday.

When I visited the University of Helsinki in 2008, I found my way into the wood shop where Kindergarten teachers working on their master's degrees were learning to teach wood working. Can you imagine that happening at the University of Arkansas? I can, and I'm hoping to push things in that direction despite my utter lack of power in doing so.

The recording on the bus speculated that the reason for the success of the Finnish model lies in the idea that less is more: That by spending more time in recess than any other country in the European Union, and far more than the US, students love school. It makes a difference.

And I cannot help but think that 150 years of Educational Sloyd and the reliance by Uno Cygnaeus upon the Froebel philosophy of learning through play has built a significant culture of learning. Cygnaeus, like Froebel before him, believed that the child's first significant impulse is to learn.  Too much pressure can destroy that impulse. Love of learning will pull a child to the ends of the earth in question or quest, but love is not a thing that can be forced upon us.

A beautiful place that impressed me was the rock church, hewn from granite in the center of Helsinki. We happened to be there while a group was practicing for a concert. It is a lovely place and deserves to be one of Helsinki's most popular tourist attractions.

Make, fix, create, and assist in seeing that others have the chance to learn likewise.

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