Finland Taking the Lead on Future Work Skills

Finland’s educational system has consistently ranked near or at the top of the OECD’s PISA scale (a global measure of the test scores of 15-year old students). Recently, Finland updated its National Curriculum Framework. The Finnish National Board of Education (NBE) will continue its focus on traditional or ‘core’ subjects such as mathematics, languages, and science. However, it has radically overhauled the way the curriculum is taught.

The NBE is taking a ‘bottom up’ approach: it sets the expectation of the type of skills it wants students to develop, and then allows the local municipalities in Finland to plan how these skills will be taught. This approach ensures that the curriculum reflects local community needs.

The curriculum changes are a response to changing social environments, and the global shift in the structure and nature of work. The NBE recognises the need for students to adapt to a “World of Change” (Oker-Blom, 2015) by encouraging new ways of learning and teaching. The curriculum prepares students for a world in which the uniquely human skills of storytelling, critical thinking, working with knowledge (New Media Literacy), and Cross Cultural Competency will be highly valued.

A key focus in the new curriculum is on transversal competences: that is, teaching the core subjects in ways that help students ‘to develop 21st century skills’ (Oker-Blom, 2015). The NBE has included these competences to encourage children’s ‘development as a human being and as a citizen’ (Vitikka, 2015). The transversal competences comprise:
• Thinking and learning to learn
• Taking care of oneself and others, managing daily activities, safety
• Cultural competence, interaction and expression
• Multiliteracy
• ICT competence
• Working life competence and entrepreneurship
• Participation and influence, building the sustainable future

Although the curriculum was recently introduced (August 2016) it could be inferred that the focus on teaching these competences will encourage the development of critical Future Work Skills, including SenseMaking, Social Intelligence, Cross Cultural Competency, Computational Thinking, and Transdisciplinarity.

The new curriculum also requires that students in each school participate in one multidisciplinary learning module each year, and that both teachers and students develop interdisciplinarity. Students are expected to learn to connect different ideas and concepts across subject areas. They are then supported to use their knowledge and skills across contexts, including at school, home, and in the community.

It is wonderful to see Finland taking the lead in education for Future Work Skills. Let’s hope that more countries in the world take action to ensure the children and youth of today are fully prepared to engage in the workforce of the future.

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