By Deborah Williams
Developed countries all over the world have heralded the education system in Finland as an exceptionally high-performing one. In her article “Finland Rethinks Factory-Style School Buildings” on the Education Week website, Sarah Sparks asserts that Finland’s innovations in education are pervasive and other countries want to duplicate many of them so that their students can boast some of these Finnish achievements, such as being among the top countries on the Program for International Student Assessment, which gauges the ability of 15-year-old students “to understand and transfer concepts in reading, mathematics, and science.”
Apparently, the Finnish take a three-pronged approach: quality of the academic curriculum, equity in educational access, “and the third one is the environment. How the environment and design of the school is supporting students’ learning. When we combine these three things we can say something about the overall goodness of the school system,” explains Pasi Sahlberg, the director general of the Center for International Mobility and Cooperation at Finland’s education’s ministry.
American educators have paid more attention to building design since the research suggests that the physical structure of schools has an impact on the students’ “health, safety, and motivation.” Architects are using that data to determine how building design motivates students to learn. Finnish design for schools consider every detail—even for the prevention of bullying. Some interesting design features include the following:
- Indoor atriums overlooked by upper-story classes
- Outdoor courtyards sheltered to the wind but with easy sight lines for adults supervising students
- Floor-to-ceiling windows intended to fill classrooms with natural light
- Orienting play yards to face east so that students with morning recess get more sun exposure and Vitamin D