Unesco statistics of tertiary education enrollment by country show that while 21.5 per cent of Maltese students successfully enrol into university each year, 70 per cent of the students in Nordic countries continuing their education after secondary school.

Nordic countries use techniques and tools that encourage collaboration- Nataša Pantovic

Comparing the Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland) with other EU countries, the difference clearly stands out. Steering towards a knowledge society for them meant higher education became a must. It also appears that the Nordic educational system uses methodologies and tools that ultimately encourage and inspire learning.

An interesting study by Yann Algan and Pierre Cahuc examines teaching methods and their application in different countries. They surveyed teachers of around 30 countries, asking them the following questions about their teaching practices: a) How often do students work in groups? b) How often do students work on projects? c) How often do students participate in role play, and d) How often does the teacher include discussions?

The results of the study are extremely insightful and show that teaching methods differ tremendously across countries. As a rule, the Nordic countries use techniques and tools that encourage collaboration; students work much more in groups, do projects together, and ask teachers questions. The central relationship in the classroom is among students.

In Mediterranean countries, teachers primarily lecture, students take notes, or read textbooks; teaching practices are oriented towards copying from the board. Teachers ask students questions and the central relationship in the classroom is between the teacher and the student.

Algan and Pierre Cahuc say the study shows teaching methods are strongly related to various social behaviours. “It appears subordination to teachers as a student leads to a feeling – and perhaps a reality – of subordination to bureaucrats as an adult,” they write.

The Nordic countries have moved from what we know to be a ‘traditional’ approach to learning. Teachers that are focused on getting through the curriculum and are pressured by exams, often use ‘lecturing’ as their main method. Teaching children to think, create, and collaborate is not at the forefront of this educational approach.

Alternative schools are seeking alternatives to the ‘conventional’ teaching methods. Albert Einstein once wrote: “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. This is taken seriously in the schooling systems that value emotional intelligence.

An alternative school’s curriculum does not teach ‘to test’, it works to promote true joy in learning, nurturing imagination, and creative problem-solving.

The teaching in such schools becomes an art form full of interesting methods and games that focuses as much on the teacher’s growth as on the growth of each individual child that goes through such an education.

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