How Scandinavian teaching at a primary school differs from British methods

“Parents receive a more holistic progress report about their child’s development, this may seem somewhat strange to UK parents”

Earlier this year, the Department for Education announced plans to change the way that children across England are tested by using a statutory reception baseline assessment.

The Government hopes to introduce this by autumn 2020, but as we have seen, the decision to test children on communication, language, literacy, and maths when entering primary school, has been controversial debate around how early children should be academically tested.

Many parents and teachers argue that children should not be academically tested at four years old, as it puts too much pressure on them at such an early age, whereas others believe that introducing testing at an early age is vital.

Testing methods for children differ vastly across Europe. From my own experience, and witnessing the child development in Sweden, the main focus is on play. Eight out of ten children who attend pre-school (ages 1-5 years) will be educated in a way that always puts focus on play.

“Testing methods for children differ vastly across Europe”

The Swedish pre-school system is specifically designed to provide learning and a stable foundation for their future education years. For a child, being able to have those extra years before starting school, at the age of six or seven, is fundamental to the development of cognitive skills.

Every child has different needs, but I do believe that children at an early age, should be introduced to new concepts through play rather than tests. For example, a study by The University of Cambridge found that three-year-olds can already grasp basic financial concepts.

This means that parents and teachers can start to introduce the concept of earning, saving, and managing money at a very young age – it can be done through play, such as matching amounts of money, trading items, making choices between different options, e.g. do you want one of this or two of those? They can even add time as a variable: would you rather have this one now or two of those later?

During primary school, Swedish children are encouraged to be creative, while still learning the academic basics. It is encouraged that the way they learn is in a playful, fun manner, through educational games, acting or song.

This organised playful learning keeps the children motivated and helps develop qualities such as perseverance, independence, and problem-solving, qualities that are essential for the child’s development.

“Swedish children are encouraged to be creative, while still learning the academic basics”

Throughout these school years, children are also not graded, compared to the controversial baseline assessment tests being rolled out in the UK.

Parents will instead receive a more holistic progress report about their child’s development, this may seem somewhat strange to UK parents, who see the educational system as a competitive race in most cases. It is important that these are given to make sure children don’t feel a sense of failure, discouraging the child from times when they try and do well.

Lastly, technology integration in classrooms varies among countries and schools. Technology is not only being integrated into schools but in every aspect of life, it is important to understand the value of using technology for good.

Today, it is often up to teachers and parents to try and equip children with the best understanding of technology. The Gimi app includes gamifying features, which makes the learning process more fun, and at the same time, equipping children with the basics of money management. Gimi’s approach echoes the Swedish educational system of independence and creativity.

By giving the child the chance to work out how much pocket money they have, or what money they can receive by doing chores, the child is ultimately freely independent.

I truly believe that children should be eased gently into the education system, allowing them to become creative, curious and independent, enjoying the basics before their academics are measured. Adding extra pressure onto children from such an early age only stunts their enthusiasm for their academic future.

While many may disagree with the Swedish academic system, I believe it is essential children are given the opportunity to practice creativity and follow their curiosity at such a young age.

About the author: Erik Bohjort, is head of Research at the Swedish-based pocket money and chores app Gimi – equipping children with financial literacy.