Tämä sivu on saatavilla vain kielillä: englanti
Finnish early childhood educators do more than just keep your child dressed, fed and alive during the day – they are highly educated experts on children’s development, trained to help them achieve their full potential. In Finland, education and play go hand in hand, and we prize the positive impact that has on our children.
We’re number one
Finnish early childhood education is ranked as number one in the world (UNESCO 2012). We believe that young children have very different learning needs and capacity than older children, and thus their education needs a very different approach. That is why Finnish kindergarten days are not structured like school days. Instead, learning is integrated into normal everyday activities like play, naps, and exploring the surrounding world. The Finnish way is to fit teaching to suit the needs of young children, not the other way around.
We recognize the huge impact kindergarten teachers and caretakers have on children. According to Finnish values, they should all be experts in early childhood education in order to provide children the best possible care and environment for their development. That is why all childhood educators I Finland have a university degree in the field.
A Finnish saying goes, “play is children’s work”. The most natural way for children to learn is through play and exploring the surrounding world in a safe yet fun manner. There is a vast amount of research into the plethora of skills children acquire while playing. However, learning through playing does not mean leaving children to their own devices. In Finnish early childhood education, children engage in structured and guided play in various learning environments through well-planned educational activities. Simply put, for a trained professional, every activity presents a valuable teaching opportunity. Special attention is paid to each child’s physical, psychological and social development and needs. This ensures that children truly learn, not just perform tasks they are told to do.
Play is an effective learning tool because it’s not stressful or achievement-oriented. Through play, children can safely explore and experiment, and get to experience the joy of learning and success, without pressure or fear of failure. Children learn best when they are active, interested and motivated, and that is what playful learning is all about.
Early language learning
Finland is a bilingual country with a great amount of experience when it comes to foreign language learning. Most Finnish citizens are bilingual with many being multilingual. Special attention has been paid to foreign language education since the 1970’s, which has resulted in various creative solutions for language learning. That is why Finnish language teachers are among the best in the world.
The critical period
The best time to learn a new language is between the ages 3 and 7. This is when children are going through a so-called critical period, during which they are highly receptive to new information and can learn one or more new languages easily. At this age, children’s mother tongue is developed enough to not be confused by a new language, but rather aided in its progress, but not so ingrained as to affect the rhythm and pronunciation of the new language. Language learning starts to get increasingly difficult around the age of 10 – the age when foreign language learning first begins in most countries. At this point, the mother tongue is already dominant, and motivation toward learning is not as easily maintained.
Young children cannot be taught a language the same way that adults are – grammatical concepts are too difficult, and learning word lists is too boring. This is where language immersion comes in. In this method, the new language is learned intuitively, just like the mother tongue, by listening to native speakers in familiar everyday situations. The new language is not the subject, but the medium of learning. It’s not taught through lessons in grammar and rules – unless the child specifically asks about them – but through internalizing the language with daily use and exposure. For the child, this creates the need to understand and be understood, and they will learn through trial and error how to utilize the new language in communication. Language immersion is hands-down the best method for learning languages at an early age with its natural approach with no pressure or tests. A stress-free learning method also fosters children’s healthy self-esteem.
Although language immersion often takes longer than conventional, explicit language teaching, the language skills it produces are more solid and longer-lasting. The new language is not simply learned; it becomes a part of the child’s identity. Language immersion requires years of commitment, but it produces fluent bi- and multilingual youngsters that are able to use their acquired languages effortlessly to express themselves. And there is a plethora of other benefits that come with early language learning – a priceless investment into a child’s future.