Letter: Follow the Finnish education model

In Tom Fletcher’s Sept. 1 column, BC Education Minister Rob Fleming states: “… B.C. has an ambitious agenda for public education…”

If our new government really wants to move to the forefront of public education in Canada, it needs to look to Finland, where all children have access to free, full day daycare (up to age 5). Full day kindergarten begins at age 6, and Grade 1 begins at age 7.

According to world-renowned family therapist and parenting author Steve Biddulph, full day kindergarten for 5-year-olds is too long, and any younger is a big mistake developmentally. Most boys are slower to develop fine-motor and language skills. In Biddulph’s web article, We Can Do Better By Boys, he says in countries where Grade 1 begins at age 7, a gender gap in literacy doesn’t exist.

I’ve asked a number of kindergarten teachers: “When reviewing your class in June, are there any children you feel are not developmentally ready for Grade 1?” Responses from teachers typically range from zero to four children.

Why is Finland’s school system the envy of the western world? Finland has consistently been among the highest scorers worldwide in the international assessment for student performance.

Carl Honoré writes in Under Pressure: Putting the Child Back in Childhood (2009), “Teachers [in Finland] use quizzes, and individual schools use tests to track their pupils’ progress, but the idea of cramming for SATs is as alien to Finland as a heat wave in winter.”

In Michael Moore’s 2015 travelogue-style documentary, Where to Invade Next?, he observes: “Finland’s students have the shortest school days and the shortest school years in the entire western world. They do better by going to school less.” (Google the movie trailer)

If we adopted the Finland model, by the time kids enter Grade 7 or 8, at least 70 per cent of learning assistance time (and money) in an elementary school could be eliminated simply because most wouldn’t require any!

David Buckna