How the Finnish Education System could help kids learning tennis
Finland is the #1 education system in the world. In fact it is not even close. Australia was sitting at 13.
So what is their secret recipe?
The most ironic thing about these rankings is that the Finnish system is the one that cares least amount results. They take it slow and only when a child turns 7 years old do they start with any academic training.
60% Student talk time 40% Teacher talk time
This encourages the active involvement by the students. Allowing space for the kids to talk and develop the conversation and problem solving.
Amount of time in class
A typical school day starts at 9am and ends at 2pm, even less for younger kids. Every hour, students are encouraged to have a 15 minute break to enjoy fresh air and a run around outside, even in the bad weather.
As Australian kids, teachers, schools and parents stress out about NAPLAN, in Finland testing is considered to hold students back and not give them a chance to develop their learning style. It is considered as something that gets in the way of learning until their end of high school assessments and a bit of a time waster.
Observer teachers are common and feedback is given and taken at every opportunity. A huge part of the training for teachers is observing and discussing other lessons along with their own.
Applying the Finnish Education to Tennis development
Personally it is relieving to know that Finland have this type of success with their methods. I have organically developed a very similar philosophy in my coaching. I am really encouraged that this type of thinking can still yield such successful results and more importantly, happy kids. Having facts to back up this philosophy is great and important in educating others.
Takeaways for Tennis:
- Forget rankings – Rankings are like a little hit of sugar for kids. They see their seeding, ranking or result and they feel special and feel good inside. The sugar will wear off also and I have seen some big comedowns from kids who got their first taste of seedings/rankings before falling to bits for a while as their own self expectation and ego got in the way. As I always tell the kids, my job is to see you reach your potential at a 16 year old or 18 year old (depending on how old they are) so make every decision based on long term development.
- Encourage teamwork – Without the pressure of what number, ranking, rating as the priority, then kids can work together, give each other feedback and by collaborating, they can achieve even more than if they do it purely as a personal pursuit.
- Encourage learning styles – All kids are different, some like to be busy, some less so, some more intense, others not. Some learn slowly over a long period, some quicker but more inconsistent over long term. Let this develop without constant focus on their results week upon week.
- Encourage independence – In Finland, the kids are often the ones at the front of the classroom. So on the tennis court, lets get the kids to show leadership and be independent on their tennis court.
- Study in depth – In many cases, kids are given 5 weeks to work on just 1 project. In tennis we are better to cover something in depth than to brush over to the next thing over and over again.
The Finnish school system has encouraged me to further evolve some of my philosophies at Scarborough Tennis Academy and The Art of Tennis. It is difficult and we have a certain amount of cultural conditioning which is hard to undo. To create happy kids who enjoy learning irrespective of documented results or standings is great but difficult. The good news is that if you can stay with the path, this type of education system can not only help with the character development but in the long term, the results end up being very high. So if you can think of a way to keep the parents happy with this for 10 years while their kids develop, everything will be fine………
Here is a great 9 minute clip about the Finnish system.
Art of Tennis