Primary Literacy – The Little Book Project

Why do Finnish primary students perform so well at literacy? Johanna Hämälainen starts her class with a puzzle: ‘I’m silent, but I speak to you; if you join me I will tell you more than anyone else.’ Her 8 & 9 year olds are attentive. ‘Who am I?’ she asks. The answer, of course, is ‘a book,’ as this is a literacy class.

Johanna teaches at Strömberg Primary School in Helsinki, she’s invited Ophelia Vanderpuye, a London primary school teacher, to visit her. Between them they want to try to answer a bigger puzzle. Why have Finland’s youngsters performed so well in the international OECD PISA assessment in Literacy; what are the Finnish schools doing better that any other country, including the UK?

Johanna has spotted one feature in the PISA statistics ‘What I’ve noticed in Finland’s results, is that there are not as many of those slower learners who need the special help.’ Is her mixed ability class part of the answer, or does the explanation lie deeper in the nation’s character, or is it to do with a deep pride in the Finnish language?

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