Is Finland better than us at giving children 21st Century skills?


A recent BBC article shows how Finland is experimenting with new ways to teach children the skills to survive and thrive in the 21st Century.  This involves re-thinking how and what it teaches by putting project- or phenomenon-based learning (PBL) at the heart of learning, replacing traditional subject based learning.

PBL puts technology at the centre of group working so that learners develop collaboration, communication and cognitive skills.  It is often combined with other non-technology activities such as field trips, data gathering or surveys.  The BBC article highlights an interesting project on immigration undertaken in collaboration with a school in Germany.

Supporters say that PBL helps children develop skills such as critical thinking to identify fake news and avoid cyber-bullying, and the technical ability to install anti-virus software and link up to a printer.  They also point to happier, more relaxed, more engaged learners.

Critics however are concerned that it does not provide children with a strong enough grounding in a subject to enable them to study it at a higher level.  They also worry about widening the gap between the most and least able students.

Whatever your views on PBL, the fact that Finland, a country with a reputation for having one of the leading education systems in the world, is now re-thinking the way it teaches is significant.  By putting technology and the skills learners need for jobs in the 21st Century at the core of their education system, they are looking to give their students an advantage in the world.  Whatever the outcome of the election, the next government must realise that unless technology is at the heart of our education system and we give our student the skills that they need to compete, then we will be failing our children.