Last week was Autumn break for my son and so my blog also took a break:) . Since the school started today, it’s been on my mind so it became the topic for this week. I am quite sure, I will have multiple chapters on this topic as and when I remember them.
While living in US, last 5 years or so, people asked me some standard questions about Finland schools. I will try to address some of the questions I remember. One of the questions I always got asked is “I hear they don’t give homework in Finnish schools. Is that true” or “I wish schools here are like in Finland with no homework at all”. If you ever googled “Finland and no homework”, you will see numerous articles on it. So, I thought I will address that first. It simply is NOT true. Finnish schools do give homework. My son gets homework in almost all the subjects (so far haven’t seen any PE homework) but not all of them every single day. Maths homework usually is a regular one – two pages of problems from the text book in the chapter they are currently working in school. He does get homework in languages almost everyday they have a class for that language. When we moved in spring he chose (‘encouraged’ by us ) to take Spanish as optional subject but later realized that if you take Spanish in 5th grade, you have to continue it for “n” number of years (I don’t remember the exact number). Also in 6th grade, they start learning 3rd language, Swedish. So, this year my son ended up having 4 languages in school – English, Finnish, Swedish and Spanish!.
Back to homework, yes, he does get homework. Not 2hrs per day homework but more like half hour (on rare occasions maybe an hour) of homework. Most of the Fridays they have no homework and of course no homework for holidays either. And it’s not just my son. I asked kids I know from various parts of the country, different grades too. It seems like the amount of homework given does depend on individual teacher, but no one gives too much homework. The trend does seem to be moving towards giving less homework.
Even in US, it totally depends on the school and individual teacher. I remember my son going to one of the private schools in Bay area for a year (and this private school is better compared to some others) and everyday, he used to get more than an hour of homework in Kindergarten (5 years old!!!). In 1st grade, when he started getting 2 hrs of homework and at least one test to prepare for the next day, we decided it’s time to get him out of there. It probably works for some kids/families but wasn’t the right thing for us. Even in public schools, some teachers gave more homework than others. My son’s 3rd and 4th grade teachers ( I loved them so much for their style of teaching) didn’t believe in giving a lot of homework. The teachers focused on getting the kids to understand the concepts without needing to give a lot of homework. Very rarely he used to get homework. Even for the science fair, both the teachers put in extra effort to get kids do their Science fair projects in class. This ensured kids actually do it in their own capacity (and not parents helping or in some cases actually do the project). I used to go to their class once a week in voluntary science teacher capacity and help with all that.
I wish there are Science Fairs and such here too (I am a science nerd and can’t help it). Of course there are a few science competitions across the nation just not at school level. There are other things in schools here that probably used to exist in US (and in India too) at some point but now virtually non-existent. For example, in 6th grade, my son has home economics (and I think it would continue for a few years) class once a week. This year they are learning how to make a hoodie, which includes, measuring, cutting the cloth, and sewing!. One of the higher grades will be about teaching basic cooking skills (with homework as ‘cooking dinner for family’ and acknowledged by a parent). They also learn knitting (woolen socks for example) and other basic life skills. I absolutely love the idea of home economics!! No wonder almost everyone here can knit socks and scarves and tell me “it’s quite easy”….
Just before the Autumn break, the 6th graders had a day of what’s called Yrityskylä. Official description of it is “The Yrityskylä learning environment for sixth-graders is a schoolchildren’s society, a miniature city where students work in a profession and earn money for their work. In addition, the students act as consumers and citizens, as part of Finnish society”. Seems like kids were quite excited about the day. A few days before the actual day of “work”, they got to choose what they want to be (picked by lottery if more than one person asks for the same position). Positions included, mayor of the city, president of big firms, grocery store clerk and many more. My son said he couldn’t get any of the positions he wanted and so became a grocery store clerk. He also said, there was another grocery store there which was selling fresh vegetables so they sold energy bars and such and that more students (citizens) came to their store instead of the other one (veggies vs sugary bars…hmm…).
Best thing about Finnish schools though (at least in elementary grades), is the amount of time they spend in school. 4 out of 5 days of the week, my son has 5hrs of school. Only one day, he has 7 hrs of school. This gives him time to enjoy other things like going for a bike ride or work on his robotics or just chill….. For sure, Finnish education system got this one quite right:)
ps: last picture is taken by my son during their Yrityskylä day working at grocery store in their mini-city.