Formal schooling in Finland does not begin until age 7 when children are ready and eager to learn. Childhood, play and playful learning are valued in Finnish education. There are no standardized testing or school inspectors continuously checking on the quality of teaching or the learning results. External inspection of teachers’ work and testing of students’ achievement have been transferred from national authorities to be central aspects of the teaching profession, as well as school leadership. Children should learn how to learn, not how to take a test. And value play, life-long learning and their learning community.
Active learning by playing and doing are valued highly in Finnish preschools. Numbers, reading, writing, science and ICT are introduced in early learning education, but children do not need to read or write before they go to school. In other words, Finnish children can be illiterate until age seven, but they very quickly catch up and become very efficient and motivated readers in primary school. In some countries they begin with academic subjects at very young age, when in Finland children’s play, curiosity and creativity play the biggest role in learning. Childhood is very short and children will have plenty of time to learn in formal education. And as the international tests such as PISA, TIMMS and PIRLS show, children can have a playful childhood and become academically strong, happy and motivated learners.