Can India, Like Finland, Do Away With Subjects At School For Smarter Learning?

Can India, Like Finland, Do Away With Subjects At School For Smarter Learning?

Knowledge is limitless and all encompassing. Every piece of knowledge is precious and part of a bigger web of information that shapes our society and the way it functions. It is only in the 1900s where the traditional schooling system broke down knowledge into ‘subjects’ for simplification in the curriculum. However, in a world where knowledge is so easily accessible to young learners, do we even need ‘subjects’ anymore?

While schools across the globe today are still guilty of staying trapped in the orthodox way of teaching, shining like a diamond in the coal, is the pioneering education system in Finland. In a revolutionary step, the education board in Finland has done away with subjects in their school curriculum to move towards a more holistic learning model for their students. In Finland, instead of individual subjects, students will study events and phenomena in an interdisciplinary format.
Starting at age 16, every individual can choose to study courses as per his or her aptitude and interests, professional ambitions.  Events like the Second World War will be examined from the perspective of history, geography, and math. The education board is also offering courses like “Working in a Cafe,” where students will absorb a whole body of knowledge about English language, economics, and communication skills.
In a powerful statement, the head of the Department of Education in Helsinki, Marjo Kyllonen shared, “There are schools that are teaching in the old-fashioned way which was of benefit in the beginning of the 1900s — but the needs are not the same, and we need something fit for the 21st century.”Finnish education has almost always ranked as the best systems in the world and the respect for education is ingrained in the society.In stark contrast to this, the Indian School education system seems to be stuck in a rut. The classrooms look the same - a teacher stands in front of a class full of uninitiated students, reading out a string of words that mean next to nothing. It is safe to say that marks have always been a priority to Indian school learners than learning itself. Students don’t think of innovation, reasoning and original ideas as they are spoon fed information that they simply memorize for exams. Even teachers in the country lack the motivation to explore the scope beyond the central board curriculum and prescribed textbooks. Teaching continues to remain a not-so-handsomely paid job at school level. The ruling government often injects nationalism, jingoism and their personal agendas in school curriculum, taking away the essence of learning in a liberal environment.The social disparity in India is saddening, where private schools or International schools with quality education are only for the rich while the poor still battle hard to access free education and often continue sending their children to dysfunctional schools only for the mid-day meals. In Finland, education has always been free and subsidized meals are provided to full time students.

Image courtesy: Countercurrents

What Indian can learn from Finland, is how it is moving towards an approach where the traditional format of teacher-pupil communication will be replaced by students working together in small groups as opposed to sitting behind desks. Of course, for this model to succeed it is of essence that teachers are well trained and have adequate knowledge themselves.  The Finnish education system encourages its teachers and lauds their efforts by giving them good pay. This is the primary draw, and this is what will motivate a large number of people who have the desire to teach but just deem it finacially unfeesable.
Schools in India follow a system where pupils study subjects in isolation. For instance, English Language is taught separately from Mathematics, Mathematics separate from Science, Science separate from Geography and so on. Students sit in classrooms with the sole aim to secure good grades in tests, often despising certain subjects and failing badly in exams, however in traditional schools across the country, they are not given a choice to be able to select the subjects they really want to study.Finland believes in shorter school hours, free education, unconventional teaching methods that do not focus on marks but on hands-on practical experience. Even longer summer vacations give students the opportunity to build themselves as well rounded individuals outside the confines of school. It is no wonder that all this has worked in the country’s favor as it has maintained its reputation in the list of top 10 countries for best education. Perhaps India can learn a lot from Finland’s model of education to engage Indian learners in a system where knowledge is seen as a collective entity as opposed to mere subjects they need to study from hardbound textbooks.Bringing the joy of learning to classrooms will start with creating an environment where curiosity is encouraged under the guidance of motivated teachers, who are both valued and paid handsomely, similar to Finland’s approach.Recommended for further reading, a comprehensive guide on how Finland believes in making schooling a rewarding experience for its pupils.

  Feature Image Courtesy: Indian Express

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