Huippu Education - Jul 5, 2020

What makes the Finnish approach to learning “holistic”?

You have probably heard of a ”holistic” approach to learning, but did you even paused to wonder what that actually means?

The word “holistic” comes from the concept “holism” that is widely used in social sciences and in medicine. When we talk about holistic medicine, we talk about treating the whole person with a body and a mind, not just a single symptom on a patient.

We can apply the same idea to education: holistic education means that we talk about teaching the whole person with a personality, emotions, needs and life experiences. So, when applying holistic ideas to teaching and learning, we must focus on the overall growth and development of the learner, body and mind, not only developing the academic skills.


In Finland, the holistic approach can be seen integrated in our school system

A few examples:

Finnish schools offer a free meal for the learners, because it is understood that hungry children are not able to learn efficiently (Finnish institute for health and welfare and National Nutrition Council).

School nurses work in schools to help learners to cope with stress or difficult life situations and support their overall wellbeing (National Audit Office of Finland).

In Finnish basic education and up to high school, mandatory studied subjects include visual arts, music and physical education, because we want our learners to develop their artistic and self expression skills together with their academic skills.

Our schooldays are also relatively short and we have short pauses between lessons for children to play outside, because research backs up the teacher’s experience: the breaks support preconditions for learning and make school more enjoyable for children. 


From theory to practice

Next, we need to make a shift from the institutional and structural level to teacher and classroom level of holistic education. The holistic approach comes truly to alive in the teacher professionalism as well as the relationship between teachers and their learners.

How can teachers meet their learners as individual personalities and recognise their different kind of social, emotional and physical needs and different learning abilities? How can teachers design their lessons and activities in the way that children learn the essential social and 21st century skills while practicing also how to read, write and count? How can teachers ensure that the schooldays develop their learners in a holistic way, catering for both body and mind?

These questions need to be asked and answered if teaching practices want to be developed according to the holistic approach.

We at Huippu Education want to equip teachers around the world with skills that help them to develop their professional skills with the help of Finnish trainers and best pedagogical practices from Finland. That’s why we have designed online trainings to address these and many more topics. Explore our available courses

We hope to see you soon in one of them!

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Written by Huippu Education

News, insights and thoughts on education and pedagogy.