Finland is a nation of no exam and no assessment, a nation without any dropouts of all grades, and a country where everyone can equally access quality education and training. This nation of a powerful education revised its laws about curriculum for compulsory basic education in 2014, and applied an education system with PBL as its core in August, 2016. Finland has revised the curriculum which it has stuck to for ten years since 2006. Meanwhile, Finland was working on an innovative educational system which revised things that were discussed for about six year since 2012. Finland frequently applies the PBL system across subjects as well as grades with 'comprehensive capability reinforcement' as the center, which is the key term for revised curriculum. The National Board of Education for Finland views capability as a total of knowledge, intelligence, value, attitude, ability and will. It desires to improve the comprehensive capability of students and addresses the questions that students think are meaningful based upon the premise of cooperation between subjects. PBL doesn't require students to study by subjects but by topics, also called 'course'. Concerning this, many countries have falsely reported that Finland will abolish subjects in education. In response to these false reports, the Finland Education Office revealed an official stance that all students have to participate in course lessons and subjects will not be abolished.
PBL is the abbreviation for Phenomenon Based Learning. It means learning things which can happen and be applied in real life. For example, they may study ‘why rain comes down’ as a course or ‘why the Second World War began' as a course or 'pyramid'. After they decide one subject, they gather data. After, regardless of the way of the materials used for research, such as using the Internet, books, and etc, students discuss the topic. They discuss ‘rain’ not only as a science but also through history and geography. They look up the definition of rain, they learn about the different forms depending on climate and geographical features, and they see the effects of rain in historical contexts. In this process, students can organize the information that they research and cultivate the art of storytelling to others. In addition, they can learn putting together the knowledge from other students and organize information in their own way. In each class, there are seven or eight teachers who run the class with group-matched students. Students say their opinions lead the class actively. They must judge the value of what they learn not others. Students become complete owners of the class.
Here is a real scene from a class. Students watch a video which reproduces the eruption of a volcano and the destruction of the city Pompeii. After the video ends, students bring up laptop computers and do assignment that compare the past of Rome and Finland. Someone compares the Roman Coliseum and stadium. Then, she prints a miniature Roman building from a three dimensional printer and utilizes the piece as part of a board game. In Korea, students do not have the same freedom to choose what they want to study and the atmosphere is very quiet.
The current situation of education in Korea Currently, Korea ranks among the highest in programs for International Student Assessment of science and mathematics in 42 countries, but in learning interest and confidence Korea ranks very low. Educational program called STEAM was introduced to build confidence and interest. The acronym STEAM stands for Science, technology, engineering, arts and humanities, and mathematics. The exact definition of STEAM is "education that enhances understanding and develops real world problem-solving capabilities through use of science, technology, and imaginative thinking skills.” It is an education policy which tries 'fusion' for the first time in Korea. However, this program is limited in that it applies only to students from primary through secondary schools, and in actual practice, it only applies to elementary school children.
-The gradual changes in education of Korea
A new government has been established in 2017. And the new government has proposed incredible educational reform plans. It calls for two teachers to be assigned to each class in elementary school and middle school, absolute evaluation in scholastic ability tests, simplification of the college admission process, and changes to all kind of high schools and their credit system. These education policy is already implemented in Finland. The positions on this policy are polar opposites. From among these, we can regard the credit system of high schools as an effort to cultivate people of talent and increase engagement. Also, students can take classes crossing liberal arts and general science courses. The changes to ordinary high schools of special-purpose high schools and autonomous private schools are to reduce private education expenses and to prevent students from extreme academic competition. Kim Sang-gon, a superintendent of education, said at a monthly press meeting, that he will abolish and phase out ten foreign language high schools and autonomous private high schools in Gyeonggi-do Province by 2020.
-Direction of Korea’s education in the future
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has come. In Korea, teaching is rote, classes are instructor centered, and students cram as much as they can. Then how should Korea prepare for the future? We stand at an age that when you Google you can obtain any information readily. Quickly cramming a lot of information has limits as information is fast-changing. So what teaching methods should we apply? Educators are challenged in deciding which subjects should be eliminated and how. Instead of that, here are two teaching methods as possible solutions.
Sugata Mitra, an Indian educationalist, suggests reverse teaching, also known as flipped learning. Flipped learning classes are already implemented in Korea. In advanced classes, students learn about things that they will study in the class through printed materials and videos prepared by teachers. And students then prepare for intense activities in the class. It is very similar to PBL. The advantages of flipped learning are as follows: First, it makes student enable self-directed learning. Second, it involves students by mandating participation in debate. Third, it provides differentiated instruction. Fourth, it gives repeated practice. Lastly, it improves concentration through preparation and makes long term memory.
Another alternative is Smart Education. SMART stands for self-directed, motivated(interest), adaptive(level and aptitude), resource enriched, and technology embedded(information technology application). SMART Education is designed to do two things, provide Smart classrooms and digital classrooms. In digital classrooms, students and teachers share materials for focused interactive learning with participants on the World Wide Web. Also, they can study when they want. The Google drive is one example. Google drive is a cooperative internet program based on cloud storage. It allows people to save and share files, and people can make comments. Smart education uses web offices such as Social network service and Google drive. These programs are not under time and space constraints. Also people can collaborate by using these tools. In Smart classes, students and teachers can research and try new education methods using electronic bulletin boards in addition to digital devices like tablet PC.
The PBL system in Finland helps arouse interests in students. Korea should expand a range of applications of a similar system to improve passion and interest in academics for Korean students.