Xinhua News Tampere, Finland on 14th, August.
Title: Children should take a leading role in learning - A comparison between Chinese and Finnish curriculum reforms
Xinhua News Reporters: Jizhi Li, Xuan Zhang
Chinese education reform aims at strengthening the most essential qualities of students. At the same time, Finnish primary and secondary schools are starting the first semester after the implementation of the new curriculum. The reform aims at shifting the focus from “what to learn” to “how to learn”.
Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study done by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It started in 2000 and has been repeated every three years. Both Finnish and Chinese students are among the top performers in the PISA test.
The current curriculum reform in Finland is focusing on improving the students’ competences in adapting to the modern society. The question is whether this new reform will help Finland to maintain its leading position in education. During the 2nd China-Finland Principals Forum, we had the opportunity to interview some education experts from both China and Finland to find out what they have to say about the education reforms.
“The outline of the new curriculum requires the students not only to receive the information, but to also understand the importance of the information,” summarised Mr. Jari Anderssson, the Chairman of Finland-China Education Association (FICEA), the Chairman of the Sastamala city council and the Principal of Sylvää School. Andersson mentioned that one important learning method is “phenomenon based learning”, which breaks the boundaries of different subjects. For example, the topic of “climate change” can cover subjects such as geography and biology and the topic of “United Nations” covers subjects like English, geography and history. “We have arranged phenomenon based learning -classes on a regular basis in Sylvää school ,” added Mr. Andersson
The outline of the new curriculum also encourages teachers to gather with students to look for answers rather than to offer the knowledge to them straight away. Teachers should try to possess students’ passion in studying and not to point out the right or wrong answers immediately. In addition, teachers should inspire students to discover their own strengths and weaknesses and help them to explore their own potentials. In order to help students to think independently and to communicate between different cultures, schools should focus on self- and peer-evaluations rather than standardized tests.
Ms. Sanna Lauslahti, the vice chairperson of the Ministry of Education and Culture, senior advisor of FICEA and the chairperson of the CFP 2016 told us, “The world is changing so fast. It is likely that the knowledge that we are teaching today is going to be outdated in a few years, and no one knows what the world will look like when our students start their careers. Hence, the current curriculum reform emphasizes the leading role of students in learning. The most important thing is not offering only the knowledge, but helping children to learn by themselves and to adapt to different environments.”
Mr. Chunyan Gong, the Head of Chongqing Education Evaluation Institute said, “For a long time, China has taken influences from different countries such as Finland. We have been trying to push forward the curriculum reforms in primary and secondary schools. This year, we are going to revise the curriculum standards based on the selected core competences.”
Chinese education experts consider the basic education cultures of Finland and China moving towards the same direction. For example, quality and equality are emphasized in both countries, and each country has set up their own core competences for students. But due to the differences in country contexts, the approaches to meet the goals are different too.
Chongqing Xiejiawan Primary school is one of the pioneers in basic education reform in China. A few years ago, they integrated more than ten different subjects into six main subjects. During the reform process, Principal Liu Xiya was under a lot of pressure because of the parents. She told us, “Our basic education is still hovering between ‘essential-qualities-oriented’ education and ‘exam-oriented” education. It is much harder to implement curriculum reform in China than in Finland.”
One important factor in curriculum reforms is the improvement of teaching evaluation system. Mr. Dong Li, the Vice Chairman of FICEA, told us, “In China, we are using a different system to evaluate the teachers’ teaching levels and students’ overall qualities. It is a problem that we have to solve when we are pushing the curriculum reforms further. Mr. Gongchun Yan also commented, “The key for Chinese education reform is evaluation system. We have started the pilot project of National College Entrance Examination (NCEE) reform in several places, and this is a step-by-step approach.”
Compared to the reform in NCEE, the reform in basic education is carried out at a larger and deeper scale, especially in primary education. Some schools have adopted the evaluation system of giving students different grades rather than scores. “We are not only evaluating how good the students are at theoretical studies — we are also scrutinizing their overall competences in communication, enduring difficulties, practices and adapting to the society and its rules,” commented Gong.
During the CFP-Forum 2016, many prominent speakers delivered interesting speeches. Xiping Tao, a well-known Chinese educator, analyzed the trend of Chinese basic education reform. Arto Satonen, a member of the Finnish Parliament, hoped that the communication and cooperation between Chinese and Finnish education experts could further the development of education in both countries. Aulis Pitkälä, Director General of the Finnish National Board of Education, introduced the core concepts, goals and structure of the current curriculum reform in Finland.
Opening speakers and keynote speakers