Finland has captured the interest and imagination of researchers and policy-makers around the world due to its impressive performance on international tests.
In the UK, kids play during breaks and work during class.But in Finland play is a child’s work.
Central to early years education in Finland is a “late” start to schooling. At all Finnish daycare centres, the emphasis is not on maths, reading or writing but creative play.
Indeed the main aim of early years education is the promotion of the health and well-being. Daycare is to help develop good social habits. Official guidance emphasises the importance the “joy of learning”, language enrichment and communication with an emphasis on physical activity (at least 90 minutes outdoor play a day).
Play, nonetheless, is a serious business, at least for the teachers, because it gives children vital skills in how to learn.
Successfully engage a child in a game, whether acting out a story or constructing a building, they then become motivated to refine and improve on their task and to increase the challenge.
Finland is presently devolving more power to teachers and pupils to design and direct learning. Teachers are well paid, well-trained and trusted by politicians. Educational policy and teaching is heavily research-based.
Could we learn from the Finnish system and use game play to our children’s advantage?