Would longer school hours improve our education standards?
You'd have to have been living on Planet Mars recently not to have heard about Michael Gove's suggestion to have longer school days and shorter holidays and the negative reaction there has been to this. Mr Gove believes that our school system was designed for a 19th-century agricultural economy, children are trailing behind and that school hours and holidays need to be more family-friendly. With teacher and parents groups opposing this move, it's hard to think who he is trying to appeal to.
Personally, I think that a 9am-3.30pm is enough of a school day for children. I wouldn't relish picking my children up at 4.30pm as I think that they'd be exhausted. I also like them to do after school activities on some days and just chill at home on others. But would longer hours mean that our children would really benefit? And is it worth considering? I had a little look into other countries school hours and was really interested to read about Finland which is recognised world-wide as a top ranking education model. Significantly, Finland has the shortest formal teaching hours in Europe but the best educational results. As well as being a major refutation of Gove's longer hours hypothesis, this also suggests to me that we should be considering some of the other things that Finland does if we are looking to majorly re-vamp our current school system. For example:
- In UK primary schools, children generally have a new class teacher each year. This is different in Finland where the class can be with a teacher for 6 years. They believe that this makes the class seem more like a ?family? meaning children learn better and don't have to deal with changes each year.
- There is fierce competition to be a teacher in Finland and all the teachers there have Masters degrees (which are fully subsidised). In fact, only 10% of trainee teachers actually get to be practising ones.
- Finnish teachers have much more autonomy to choose the way in which they teach.
- The education system as a whole places a greater emphasis on playtime and there are lots of breaks in the school day.
- There are no private schools in Finland at all and classes are not academically streamed.
- Children don't have to start school until they are 7 years old
- Class sizes don't normally exceed 15.
- There is a huge emphasis on sports, music and the arts in every school. In fact they are considered to be a crucial part of educating.
I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on Gove's longer school hours and whether it is a good thing or not? And if anyone has any experience of the Finnish school system, then please do get in touch.