Thursday, 2 October 2008

Developing students' independence

I was amazed to see how independent Finnish children are. I haven't had the chance to see much of family education, but as far as school education is concerned, I did observe a few ways students are trained.

Firstly, students, as little as seven-year-olds, go to school on their own. You can see the boy on the right going home on his own. (sorry it wasn't closer - i feared i would scare him!) And their timetables vary from day to day, for example, they may start their classes at 8 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, but they may start at 9 on Wednesdays, and at 10 on Thursdays. Each student knows exactly when they have to come to school.

Secondly, students have floating classes. They go from one classroom to another after each lesson, and again since their first day in school. They are incredibly organised.

Thirdly, they have good habits of cleaning things up, say after their woodwork classes or simply after the last lesson.

The two most interesting aspects of independence to me are in learning and thinking:

Students are very self-disciplined. They do their homework and go up to the teacher's desk to check the answers themselves (without cheating). They ask the teacher questions if they don't understand why they have made a mistake. Sometimes classes can be incredibly quiet because each student is reading on his own the text and doing the questions. The teacher's role is just to supplement the student's learning; the teacher is not there to tell the students everything they need to know.

In subjects like art and woodwork, I could see a very consistent teaching approach: let the students think for themselves how they would go about their work. They learn to make judgment and rely on their own creativity in coming up with their products.

The girl below has decided to make a heart with her string of knots (which she made herself).

I personally have a very firm belief in independent learning - to me this is one of the most important things my parents taught me. You should only rely on yourself, and not your teachers or others.

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