The new curricula in a nutshell
The new curricula have been introduced - how is basic education reformed?
The new curricula for compulsory basic education are implemented in all municipalities and schools as of 1 August 2016. The Finnish National Board of Education introduced the National Core Curriculum in 2014, and the municipalities have drawn up their own local curricula based on the national framework.
The National Core Curriculum provides a uniform foundation for local curricula, thus enhancing equality in education throughout the country. The curricula of each municipality and school steer instruction and schoolwork in more detail, taking local needs and perspectives into consideration.
Goal: to secure the necessary knowledge and skills as well as to encourage learning
The curriculum reform aims at ensuring that the knowledge and skills of Finnish children and youths will remain strong in the future, both in national contexts as well as international. In addition, pedagogical guidelines have been outlined to help schools develop their operating methods in order to increase the pupils' interest in learning and motivation to learn.
Some of the key goals of the reform include enhancing pupil participation, increasing the meaningfulness of study and making it possible for each and every pupil to experience success. Children and youths are guided in assuming more responsibility for their schoolwork, but, in accordance with this, also given more support in their studies. The pupils set goals, solve problems and assess their learning based on set targets. The pupils' experiences, feelings, areas of interest and interaction with others lay the foundation for learning. The teacher's task is to instruct and guide the pupils into becoming lifelong learners, by taking the individual learning approaches of each pupil into consideration.
Learning outside the classroom and by using technology
One particular aim of the reform was to develop the learning environments and work methods used in basic education. A learning environment should be secure, and it should inspire learning. In addition to the classroom and the immediate school environment, also other environments, , such as getting out into nature or visiting museums or businesses, should be used. Games and other virtual environments should also be recognized more often as learning environments. Technology plays an increasingly significant role in everyday school routines, thus allowing pupils to be more easily involved in the development and selection of their own learning environments. Each subject at school uses a variety of work methods, giving the pupils chances to learn different skills with each work method.
Changes in distribution of lesson hours and subject contents
The Basic Education Act specifies the subjects taught and the distribution of lesson hours. For example, social studies and languages are introduced in a lower grade than before. The goals and contents of the subjects have been updated to reflect today's society and the knowledge and skills needed in the future.
Transversal competences developed in all subjects
The new curriculum places an emphasis on transversal competences in the instruction of subjects. These competences are based on different perspectives. Study, working life and active citizenship require a command of different knowledge and skills as well as competences in combining these. Each subject promotes transversal competence skills.
The aims set for transversal competences include thinking and learning-to-learn, interaction and expression skills, and multiliteracy, which is the ability to produce and interpret variety of different texts. Transversal competences also include managing daily life and taking care of oneself. Other aims of transversal competences are cultural competence, interaction and self-expression, ICT competence, working life competence and entrepreneurship as well as participation, involvement and building a sustainable future.
The aims of transversal competences are specified in the National Core Curriculum for Basic Education 2014, and municipalities and schools have been able to further define the competences according to their individual areas of emphasis.
Familiarisation with the fundamentals of programming
Opportunities for pupils to develop their information and communication technology skills have been improved in all subjects, with technology being included more in instruction and study. For example, programming has been integrated in the curriculum as part of the objectives set for mathematics. Pupils learn the fundamentals of programming even in the lower grades.
At least one multidisciplinary learning module a year
Each school year, every school must have at least one clearly defined theme, project or course that combines the content of different subjects and deals with the selected theme from the perspective of several subjects. These entities are called multidisciplinary learning modules. Pupils participate in planning the multidisciplinary learning modules at their school.
Optional subjects at an earlier stage
More in the way of optional subjects has been made available to lower grades. In addition, artistic and practical subjects also include optional studies. Municipalities and schools decide on the optional lesson hours in artistic and practical subjects, as well as the optional subject content and placement for different grades.
Diversity in learning assessment
The new curriculum emphasises diversity in assessment methods as well as assessment that guides and promotes learning. Information on each pupil's study progress must be given to the pupil and guardians on a sufficiently frequent basis. Feedback is given in ways other than report cards.
At the end of each school year, pupils still receive a school year report, which gives a grade for each subject on how well the pupil has achieved the targets set for the school year. The municipality decides as to whether the school year reports for grades 1-7 are verbal assessments or numerical grades. However, numerical grades must be given for every subject in the school year report by no later than the 8th grade.
In order to ensure equality in assessment, national assessment criteria for a numerical grade 8, meaning good performance, have been defined in the National Core Curriculum in every subject for two major transition phases. The first one is at the end of the 6th grade, the second one at the end of the 9th grade. The assessment criteria describe, for each subject, what kind of competence is required for good performance (grade 8). Each teacher uses these national criteria when assessing his/her pupils for the purpose of reporting on the pupil’s knowledge and skills in the school year report card for 6th grade and 9th grade, the latter one constituting the basic education certificate.
Familiarisation with the curriculum of one's own school is key
The curricula of municipalities and schools specify the guidelines for future learning and schoolwork. Each pupil has the right to receive instruction in accordance with the curriculum on each and every day of school.
All guardians should familiarise themselves with the curriculum of their child's school. This makes it possible for the guardian to more effectively support their child's learning and school-going as well as participate in the planning and development of school activities together with the school faculty.
Co-operation between home and school improves the well-being and safety of the pupil, the class and the entire school community. Functional co-operation is the key to building a successful school path for each pupil.