25.3.2015

What is going on in Finland? ā€“ Curriculum Reform 2016

Blog text 25.3.2015

Photo: FNBEIn December 2014, Finland completed the reform of the National Core Curricula for pre-primary education and for compulsory basic education. The local education authorities are now busy working with the local curricula based on the National Core Curricula. Schools will start working according to the new curricula in autumn 2016.

The National Core Curricula were compiled in an extensive collaboration process where the Finnish National Board of Education worked side by side with municipalities, schools and teachers, and with teacher trainers, researchers and other key stakeholders. The reform process and the core curricula have met a positive response throughout the field of education and the Finnish society. There is no experimentation period needed for this change. Instead, as there is a lot of autonomy for local authorities in providing education, municipalities may develop their own innovative approaches to implementing the curricula, differing from those of other municipalities.

Developing schools as learning communities, and emphasizing the joy of learning and a collaborative atmosphere, as well as promoting student autonomy in studying and in school life ā€“ these are some of our key aims in the reform. In order to meet the challenges of the future, there will be much focus on transversal (generic) competences and work across school subjects. School subjects still have an important role to play in teaching and learning. The subjects that are common to all students in basic education have been stipulated in the Basic Education Act, and the allocation of lesson hours among school subjects has been prescribed in the Government Decree in 2012.

The learning goals of the transversal competences are described as seven competence areas. Local authorities and schools are encouraged to promote the development of these competences and to consider their own innovative ways in reaching the goals. The core curricula for subjects have been written so that their learning objectives include the competence goals which are most important for the said objectives. The competences will also be assessed as a part of subject assessment. In this way every school subject enhances the development of all seven competence areas. This is a new way of combining competence-based and subject-based teaching and learning. Nevertheless, the traditional school subjects will live on, though with less distinct borderlines and with more collaboration in practice between them.

In the reform, the emphasis set on collaborative classroom practices will also be brought about in multi-disciplinary, phenomenon- and project-based studies where several teachers may work with any given number of students simultaneously. According the new National Core Curriculum, all schools have to design and provide at least one such study-period per school year for all students, focused on studying phenomena or topics that are of special interest for students. Students are expected to participate in the planning process of these studies. School subjects will provide their specific viewpoints, concepts and methods for the planning and implementation of these periods. On what topics and how these integrative study periods are realized, will be decided at local and school level.

The third emphasis in the reform has been set on formative assessment. We want to develop assessment for learning and assessment as learning. The task of assessment is to encourage students and to promote learning i.e. we need to help students to gradually learn to understand and analyze their own learning processes, and to take more and more responsibility over their learning. We believe that the ability to learn is a skill that must be systematically promoted and that this is something that is very much needed in life.

Irmeli Halinen
Head of Curriculum Development
Finnish National Board of Education

In December 2014, Finland completed the reform of the National Core Curricula for pre-primary education and for compulsory basic education. Schools will start working according to the new curricula in autumn 2016.