We talk about the 21st century skills. These skills include critical thinking, searching, producing and applying information, learning how to learn, ICT-skills, social skills and all-in-all a broad know how surpassing the explicit knowledge taught in specific disciplines. The new core curriculum gives these skills much emphasis.
They represent a know how that is to be attained in seven sectors of the core curriculum: 1) thinking and learning how to learn, 2) cultural understanding, communication and expression skills, 3) everyday life skills and knowledge to take care of oneself, 4) multiple literacies, 5) ICT-skills, 6) working-life and entrepreneurial skills 7) skills to participate, contribute and build a sustainable future.
The new core curriculum is built on “approaches”. The skills and understanding are not built solely on theoretical information and explicit knowledge gathered by studying specific subjects. How and with what means the students study are more important in attaining the know how of the 21st century skills. This calls for a new pedagogic approach. It is important, for example, to motivate the pupils to work purposefully, develop skills for acquiring, applying and evaluating information, promote social flexibility and an ability to function in constructive cooperation, and the assumption of responsibility for others.
The approach-based working method aims to make teaching more integrated, and develop both a wide understanding and versatile skills. This is not an entirely new idea, since the Finnish basic education has always tried to offer a broad point of view to the world. Now the focus of the national curriculum has moved to make teaching more integrated, hence the integrative education model has a more important role than before.
Finnish basic education is, also in the new curriculum, based on subjects. A profound basic and common knowledge of different subjects remains the core of our general education. Integration can be adapted into teaching in various ways. First, teaching can be combined by studying the same topic in many subjects at the same time, i.e. simultaneously. Second, topics of the same theme can be arranged to be studied one after the other, i.e. conjoined. Third, there can be theme days, excursions or events organized around a specific topic of a given school subject. Fourth, long-term entities combining multiple subjects can be planned and executed in many different ways. Lastly, one can form integrated entities from a variety of subjects.
What sort of synergy is there between education today and the education needs of tomorrow?
Despite the rapid pace of change in the world, much remains the same. The children are future citizens, workers, entrepreneurs, decision makers and parents. The education system cannot be an isolated part of the society, it has to adapt to the changes, create change, and hold on to valued parts that do not need to be changed.
Pupils entering the Finnish comprehensive education system at the age of seven will stay in the workforce until around 2070’s. During this time, tools and occupations will probably undergo drastic changes. The aim of our education system is to equip all our children with the necessary knowledge and skills to take part in shaping their own future. These skills and knowledge are not the same as for our generation. Therefore, the curriculum, learning environments, teacher education, school leadership, learning materials and tools need constant updates.
The education system should also be a catalyst of change. Pupils as innovators and new thinkers, teachers as managers and coaches of learning, and schools as future oriented learning organizations can bring new innovations to improve society and provide competitive advantage in global competition. This requires autonomy and room for rethinking on all levels in the education system.
We must also always remember that children are still children, needing care, room for play, and protection and guidance from responsible adults. The values inherent in our new core curriculum for comprehensive education remain largely the same: uniqueness of pupils and their right to good education, humanity, comprehensive knowledge of the world, equality, democracy, seeing cultural differences as richness, and the necessity of a sustainable way of life.
As far as future educational needs are concerned, we should see and hear the signals and needs coming from the society at large. We should also actively engage in creating the responses, and continue passing on the values and ideas that previous generations have guarded and passed on to us.
Why an integrated hybrid education now? What is it about the present moment that means more real world skills are needed to be brought into the classroom?
More information is accessible to more people all the time, and the life cycle of information has shortened. We need continuous personal development to keep pace with this, to be able to shape our own lives and have fulfillment. The avalanche of knowledge and information is just too much. We need skills and comprehension which will not become outdated, but instead create a basis to a continuous renewal: skills of thinking and learning, social skills, ICT-skills, creative and innovative skills. The competition over students’ time, motivation and attention has become more intense than before. Schools need to find new ways to engage their students, now and also in the future. We in Finland are trying to do this, and that is why we put great effort in continuously developing our education and school system.