Tampere primary schools to adopt new curriculum from August
Tampere schools are preparing to adopt the new curriculum. The new basic education curriculum will be implemented in its entirety across the city’s primary schools from August 2016.
The Committee for Child and Youth Services approved the City of Tampere’s new basic education curriculum and early childhood education curriculum on 12 May 2016.
The new early childhood education curriculum is also due to be implemented from August. Tampere is committed to the early childhood and pre-primary education model and providing a continuum of care and education from pre-school education through to secondary school. Pre-primary education is designed to foster the child’s personal learning and development, both as an individual and as a member of a wider group. Children explore their mathematical and linguistic abilities through art, play, physical activity and hands-on investigation. Children are also provided with opportunities for interaction with other people and enhancing their social skills. The aim of pre-primary education is to teach children to value themselves as individuals and others as their equals.
The new curriculum will introduce significant changes to the primary school education experience. Swedish and Finnish as foreign languages will now be taught a year earlier. From the academic year 2016–2017 onwards, Finnish and Swedish will taught as a foreign language from Year 6 onwards. The change will be implemented nationwide, as the decision on the earlier introduction forms part of the national distribution of lesson hours plan approved by the Finnish government.
Social studies will be introduced in Tampere schools from Year 4 and the subject will continue to be taught in Year 5. Social studies will be used to enhance children’s ability to influence and participate in society and to gain financial management and ICT skills. In Year 5, pupils will be taught both history and social studies.
In primary schools, optional subjects will be introduced in Years 4, 5 and 6. This allows children to select a subject they have a particular interest in, each year. The optional subject will be taught for one hour per week and the groups may comprise pupils from across the three years. In Tampere, the schools are responsible for determining which optional subject they offer and the aim will be to deliver cross-subject, cross-disciplinary learning opportunities. It is envisaged that the options may include different types of PE, whole-band music lessons, media skills, arts and crafts, drama and expressive arts, natural sciences or environmental studies. The optional subjects will be offered subject to uptake by a minimum of 12 pupils.
Assessment will also become more broad-based and, in future, will no longer be limited to class tests only. Assessments will now take into account a more diverse range of the children’s output and comprise a self-assessment carried out by the pupils themselves.
Following implementation in primary schools, the curriculum will be adopted in its entirety in Year 7 from 2017, in Year 8 from 2018 and in Year 9 from 2019. The main section of the new curriculum, with the exception of the new end-of-year assessment and the assessment of the optional subject, will be adopted across secondary schools from next year.
One of the key concepts enshrined in the new curriculum is the focus on developing the culture in schools to foster cross-disciplinary, holistic learning. Basic education will be developed as a single entity, where the different year groups form a consistent and educationally logical continuum from early childhood and pre-primary education through to the end of the basic education experience. The objective is to furnish children with the sort of broad-based skills they will require in the future.
It is important that children are invited to become involved in planning their own educational activities. They will also be directed to consider how learning takes place. In addition to traditional classroom-based learning, under the new curriculum, children will be exploring the environment surrounding the school and using other learning opportunities within Tampere. Social skills and team working will be central to the new learning objectives. The new curriculum offers optional provision for both primary and secondary pupils. Pupils and their parents will be invited to play a greater role in planning learning activities and developing the school culture.
In the course of the school year, all pupils will be invited to explore a current topic that is of personal interest to them. This investigative, topic-based learning will be equivalent to one week of the school year. Children from across different year groups will be planning, exploring and studying a pre-agreed topic together as part of this new multi-disciplinary learning experience.
The curriculum, updated approximately every ten years, is an important tool for educators. It guides the work carried out in schools and sets out the subject areas, learning content, objectives and assessment criteria across the years. The national framework for the curriculum is devised by the National Board of Education, which the local authorities use as a basis for their own local curricula. The curriculum was last updated in 2004.
On 12 May 2016, the Committee for Child and Youth Services issued a new decision on the formal distribution of lesson hours that underpins the basic education curriculum. With the new decision, the resources intended to cover the hours exceeding the national minimum of 22 hours will be re-directed to allow schools to provide split lessons and parallel learning opportunities.
The number of split lessons, designed to reduce class sizes, has fallen following the removal of the central government premium for this purpose. This development has coincided with an increase in pupil numbers and group sizes across Tampere. The split lessons will allow group sizes to be reduced for Finnish, maths and foreign languages.
In Tampere, the new lesson hour minimum has been set at 224 hours annually, meaning that in Tampere provision exceeds the national minimum by two hours annually. These additional hours will be targeted at Years 1 and 2. In a previous meeting on 29 October 2015, the committee had set the minimum hours at 228.