My 4-year-old will be expected to do longer days at school in UK than a 12-year-old in Finland

In 2020 our youngest will start school and I am terrified.

She is too little for school!

I think she is not ready. She will only be 4 months shy off being a 5-year-old when she starts.

But then, I am from Finland. There children start school at age 7. Till then, they can be at home with their parents, being care-free about numbers and letters and just enjoy playing.

Let’s briefly compare some aspects of Finnish education system to UK’s one

At age 7, Finns start school and only then start to be taught to read, write and do maths. As they should at year 1.

At age 7, children in UK are in year 2. They have done their reception class at age 4-5 and then moved on to year 1 at the age of 5-6. At age 6-7, they are expected to already learn to …

So they are obviously expected to be doing more advanced maths than their age peers in Finland, who have only just started their education journey at school. It is no wonder though, as the British kids would have already spent 2 years in school and are on their 3rd year!

Even more disturbingly…

Here in UK the pupils spend about 6 hours a day, 5 days a week at school. That is a whopping 30 hours a week!

The Finn in me is distressed as a 6 hour day at school was always a long day for me, or any Finn, at school.

My little helper shopping in Finland.

In Finland the councils are required by law to provide at least a minimum amount of hours of school lessons a week, but the requirement increases with the age of the children. They do not expect a 7-year-old to be spending as long at school than a 13-year-old.

In Finland, they do not expect a 7-year-old to be spending as long at school than a 13-year-old.

Those minimum hours are

The minimum hours for 7-9 year olds (years 1-2) are 19 hours a week,
9-11 year olds (year 3-4) should have at least 22 hours a week,
11-13 year olds (years 5-6) should have at least 25 hours a week and
13-16 year olds (years 7-9) should have at least 30 hours a week at school…

By comparison in UK, once the child turns 5 years old they are expected to be getting a full-time education, so from as early as in reception class the children are expected to spend 30 hours a week.

So a 5-year-old in UK does the same hours at school than a 13-year-old is only starting to do in Finland.

Me, then Melody (4) and Ruby (14). Isn’t it mind-blowing to think that these two sisters will be spending as many hours at school a week, despite the age difference?

I know British schools do not perform too bad on the international rankings when comparing educational systems.. but what about Finland then? How will the children, who spend less of their childhood at schools, do in those international tests?

I found this interesting video ..

I kept a close eye on Finland and United Kingdom on that video – and Finland always scored better than UK.

Finnish education system do differ from United Kingdoms schools in other ways too.

Finland’s education system is one of the best in the world – this is how it works

Best of 2019: Top of the class.📕 Read more: https://wef.ch/2Ig0jpJ

Posted by World Economic Forum on Wednesday, 18 December 2019

But someone more experienced could write about the other differences.
(But if your interest has peaked, there is a blog by an American who lives in Finland called Taught by Finland.)

As a conclusion,

I am excited as we are reaching a new family milestone with Melody. I anticipate the school runs, homework and all those normal school-life activities that are almost within the reach for us.

But also I am saddened by the fact that she will be spending most of her childhood within school walls. She will have so many years more of compulsory formal education than I did. But then, that is the consequence of us living in the United Kingdom, where we are content and which I do identify as my home. (There are plenty of reasons why we live here and not in Finland – maybe that’ll be another blog post.)

What do you think? How many hours children should spend at school a week?