Out Of The Minds Of Babes




From top: classroom in Finland; Dan Boyle

Are we ready to emulate Finland’s education system which promotes potential and the love of learning ahead of the ability to regurgitate facts?

Dan Boyle writes:

Last week a story emerged that didn’t seem to get a lot of traction. Its source, being a report from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, probably has had a lot to do with that.

The report suggested that the Irish primary school curriculum should be radically altered along Finnish lines. The Finnish education system currently being seen as the système du jour.

Child centred, based on bringing out the learning from within rather having it imposed upon, there is much in the Finnish system worthy of consideration and emulation.

This, however, is only a report. It requires one of the most conservative departments of government, that of Education and Skills, to bring its proposals into being.

I would be sceptical it would do so, or at least not do so while cherry picking those aspects that would result in cost savings, whilst ignoring those proposals that could achieve better social and educational outcomes.

Add to this a lack of willingness to interfere with things as they are, lest the new world order of bluff and blunder over consideration, takes offence, which makes change even less likely.

But we owe it our children to be part of an education system that puts realising their potential ahead of regurgitation; which can instill a love of learning ahead of being made into an economic utility.

By way of example I’d like to impart this personal anecdote. I get to help out with the daughter’s daughter. It isn’t an imposition, her joy of life is infectious. I sometimes get to collect her from playschool. From there, and until the time I get to return her to the real world, I occasionally get to take her to a local playground.

Initially I had to overcome strong qualms I had on how, sadly, our society views men being on their own with young children, regardless of the family relationship. I got over that.

The daughter’s daughter disabused me of such notions. Being the livewire she is she demanded constant attention. The exercise I was getting flitting from side of the playground to the other was exhausting, but aerobically beneficial.

She seemed magnetically drawn to climbing; on the steepest interface to the highest point. I stood nearby to act in case my Icarus ever came to grief, which she never did.

On one piece of apparatus I was more cautious than I should have been. It was about 50cm off the ground. On its top were a number of pods similarly distant from each other, on alternate sides requiring a step or a slight leap to reach.

I feared if missed a nasty graze or a twisted ankle might be the prize. I went to hold her hand to offer guidance. She refused my hand with disdain (I’m quite use to female rejection). Putting her hands on her hips she proceeded to tell me “I want to learn it myself,“.

If I ever needed confirmation that we need to go Finnish in how we educate our kids as they educate us, madam provided it for me there in splendid, suspended animation.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

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10 thoughts on “Out Of The Minds Of Babes

  1. Joe Bloggs

    great commentry on toddlers attitudes to fuddy duddys. i climbed everything i could when i was a toddler all the way up to teens and guess what, i survived. this new age cotton wool wrapping generation take it too far. a generation of which i’m part.

  2. Anomanomanom

    Lets get the first thing out of the way, It will never happen. And thats because even if you could guarantee every child would be at Hawinks level intelligence, if it changed the old work practice or meant any change in general the unions will kill it.

  3. bisted

    …your proposal could happen at the stroke of a pen…over 90% of primary schools are controlled by the catholic church…for example, the church decide exactly how religion is taught in schools…it dictates the books every child shall buy and the price it charges for these books…

    1. Nugget

      Not true on books. The school selects the books but the books are published by private companies who set the price.

      1. bisted

        …I meant to say texts for religious indoctination…the Irish Bishops Conference are monopoly providers to all catholic schools through their agency – Veritas Publications…but, since you mention it, the ‘message’ can seep into other lessons such as spelling or maths

  4. mildred st. meadowlark

    A nice piece you have there Dan. A perfect example of how children already have the thirst to learn, even from the youngest age.

    It’s such a pity that, as usual, the political will is not there, and instead a love for forming committees.

  5. Gorev Mahagut

    My experience of the Irish education system (in the late twentieth century) taught me that teachers are very keen on child-centered education. They seemed to enjoy letting each child discover and display his or her natural talents, curiosities and capacity for independent learning. Unfortunately for everyone, the parents had already decided what little Johnny or Jenny was was going to do for a living. “Just make sure our darling labour-force statistic gets enough leaving cert points into the right socio-economic pigeon-hole. That’s all we care about”.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      “the daughter’s daughter”
      “the” wins it for me :)

      I also refer to my brothers as ‘the brother(s)’

      Nice piece Dan…. but I fear, our country is too riddled with nationalism in the education system to be so progressive with schools.

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