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International Perspective: Climate Education in Finland

By: Giorgia F.

Among many rankings, most notably the National Center on Education and the Economy, Finland consistently appears to have one of the best education programs in the world (NCEE). At a time when international attention is focused on how large institutions, including the educational system, can better address issues of sustainability and climate change, it is crucial to examine both the successes and failures of programs worldwide. This task is a daunting one, deserving of well more than a single article, but for some perspective on the topic, let’s look at Finland.

The majority of Finland’s climate education is taught within the secondary school setting according to Finish teachers Aino Kinni and Anna Muokta. The lack of programs for younger students is what inspired these two teachers to develop a curriculum for primary education (UArctic). Initiatives such as these showcase how there is an increasing need and desire for more education surrounding climate and sustainability. While secondary education requirements are certainly a step in the right direction, in order to be more impactful, environmental learning must begin at a young age. According to the Finnish National Agency for Education, the basic education curriculum in the country includes environmental studies (Europa). While this ensures climate topics must be discussed in classrooms, the frameworks as to how they are addressed depends on individual teacher discretion. This diversity in teaching is less than ideal as students across the country are not learning equally about the impending crisis. To fully combat the issue, a unified front in all aspects, including education, is essential.

Finish students discussing issues that scare them such as climate change (Koksi)

Another, more culture based, factor influencing climate education in Finland is Greta Thunberg, the young, Swedish face of climate advocacy. In recent years, Greta Thunberg has come to symbolize the youth movement for recognition of the climate crisis by governments as well as educational institutions. Her infamous school strikes for climate have shone a light on reforms needed in environmental education. School-aged children in Finland have been listening and according to David Cord, a writer for “This is Finland”, they are inspired by her efforts. Although Finland has had numerous school strikes related to climate change, how these strikes have impacted a push by the government for stricter climate curriculum is unknown (This is Finland).

Finland’s climate education is unique in that it focuses on incorporating aspects of sustainability and climate change into all school subjects. This interdisciplinary approach is beneficial, as climate change is anything but one sided. In order to most effectively combat the crisis at hand, approaches from every angle are needed. Learning about any issue from multiple angles encourages ingenuity and out of the box thinking. With hopes of a new and more standardized curriculum being passed in the country, climate education is headed in the right direction.

Discussion Questions:

  • How do you think Finland’s highly ranked education status changes national consensus on redeveloping curriculum to better address climate change?

  • In Finland, where there is relatively less socioeconomic diversity, what social issues does an unstandardized climate curriculum create or enhance?

Works Cited
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