Literacy has gained a stronger role in the new national curriculum for basic education

The policies influencing reading dynamization are primarily on the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland and different departments and networks underneath it, particularly the National Board of Education. Municipalities are in charge of individual public libraries and schools. [1]

The Finnish government determines the general objectives of basic education and the allocation of instructional time among subjects. The National Agency of Education, which reports to the Ministry of Education and Culture, decides on the objectives and the content of instruction and records them in the national core curriculum. Municipalities prepare their local curricula based on this national core curriculum, and they have significant freedom in organizing schooling. Respectively, schools and teachers have autonomy regarding pedagogical practices and methods of student assessment within the guidelines of the national and municipal curricula. Thus, the common core curriculum is open to local adaptation. The national curricula is renewed in 10-year cycles, the latest renewal process for basic education resulting at the implementation of a new curriculum from August 2016 onwards. [ibid]

Finland does not have a mandated curriculum for reading, though national curriculum guidelines are provided. For all nine grades of basic education in Finland, the national curriculum includes guidelines for teaching reading under the heading ‘mother tongue and literature’. The general objective of the national curriculum for mother tongue and literature is that students become active and responsible communicators and readers. Instruction must be founded on students’ linguistic and cultural skills, age and experience, and must offer opportunities for diversified communication, including reading, through which students can build identity and self-esteem. The focus in education in Finland is on learning rather than testing. [ibid]

In the new national curriculum for basic education (into force in 2016), literacy has gained even a stronger role than before since it has a separate chapter in the common part concerning all school subjects. The curriculum emphasize reading engagement, that is reading for pleasure, throughout educational levels. The guidelines for literacy are currently also very much defined in the context of ‘multiliteracy’. Multiliteracy has been defined as the competence to interpret, produce and value various kinds of texts in order to understand multiple forms of cultural communication and build one’s identity. The new curriculum also stresses the use of technology-mediated learning environments. The notion of multiliteracy includes critical literacy and also takes a step towards disciplinary literacy in all school subjects. [ibid]

In terms of pre-school curriculum, the emphasis is on emergent literacy and play-like activities. In primary school the curriculum focuses on teaching reading using phonics but also reading comprehension strategies are introduced already in grades 1-2. In lower secondary grades students are expected to develop further their reading strategies, engage in increasingly diverse literacy activities, and adopt critical literacy, also evaluate texts in information search contexts. In upper secondary level, literacy has a particularly strong focus on academic track but also in vocational curriculum literacy, integrated to the field of study, has a role. [ibid]

With regard to reading literature, objectives include diversifying students’ reading activities and deepening their knowledge of literature. These objectives are to be met by ensuring mastery of reading processes through specific emphasis on reading comprehension; choosing appropriate methods of reading; sharing reading experiences; interpreting literary texts; familiarizing students with different types of text in factual and fictional settings, as well as in genres central to Finnish culture; analyzing texts as structural and meaningful entities; evaluating verbal, visual, and auditory elements in texts as well as authors’ intentions and choices; summarizing texts; and evaluating values and attitudes concealed in writing and illustration. Literature instruction also should include reading complete works—both required and optional—as well as shorter texts of various genres. [2]

Overall, the new national curricula in all subjects have some new cross-curricular perspectives on thinking and learning, cultural competence, interaction and expression, multiliteracy, and ICT competence. There is a need to develop culture that would support both collaborative and individual learning. Instead of studying facts in discrete school subjects, learning should be phenomenon-based activity across curriculum in which students have an opportunity for “voice and choice”, participation and active role. In Finland, this means a new way of combining competency-based and subject-based teaching and learning. Nevertheless, the traditional school subjects will live on, though with less distinct borders and more collaboration in practice among them. [3]

The work for reading dynamization is done in close cooperation between civil society, ministry and its departments, municipalities, schools and public libraries. The most visible member of the flourishing civil society in promoting reading engagement is the Finnish Reading Centre.

Sources of information:

1] New Helsinki Central Library Oodi  http://www.oodihelsinki.fi/en/

2] PIRLS 2016 Encyclopedia, Finland http://timssandpirls.bc.edu/pirls2016/international-results/encyclopedia/countries/finland/teachers-teacher-education-and-professional-development/

3] Literacy in Finland: Country Report. Children and adolescents. March 2016. ELINET European Literacy Policy Network.http://www.eli-net.eu/fileadmin/ELINET/Redaktion/user_upload/Finland_Short_Report.pdf