Music Education: Has Finland Got It Right?

Credit: International School of Music Finland
Clare Kenny
| January 16, 2017

Finland’s education system is world-renowned. Its approach of personalised learning and equal opportunity to learn for all students has meant it consistently tops global education rankings. We examine what this specifically means for music education in Finland and explore how it can be emulated in Australia.

Schools in Finland look quite different to schools in Australia – and the approach to education is similarly very different. Here’s a quick summary of school life in Finland:

  • There is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to teaching and learning
  • Teachers have the power to direct, shape and deliver curriculum
  • All teachers have a master’s degree with specialised pedagogical training to teach
  • Children start school aged 7 and not before
  • Homework isn’t really a thing until teenage years
  • Formal testing isn’t really a feature – except for one standardised test for leaving school
  • School days are very short and allow younger children significant time for play
  • Hardly any co-curricular activities take place within school
  • Ample time and opportunity is provided for co-curricular pursuits away from school

Music is understood as an integral part of child development throughout Finland. “Finns believe that no child is too young to begin their relationship with music” (Michael Pearce, Music Teacher Magazine, UK). Specialist music schools operate under the umbrella of the Finnish Music School Association (SML) to deliver a diverse range of musical opportunities for students. More than 67,000 students are enrolled in the music school system. You can find out more about the Music School offerings from the International Society for Music Education (ISME).

In addition to a focus on chosen instrument(s), the musical education offered to students in Finland includes a holistic program including music theory, aural skills development, music history, ensemble work, composition and musicology. The approach to teaching music is considered, flexible, well-rounded and inclusive. Musical styles and genres are valued equally and students are encouraged to explore their particular interests within the context of a musical education that is diverse and of the highest quality.

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