Race to the Finnish: HEI Schools opens first Australian ECEC centre in Melbourne
Finland has long been recognised as a world leader in education and care: as a country with a population of approximately 5 million, where children don’t begin schooling until age seven, a country where the years before school have an extensive focus on creative play and the health and social and emotional wellbeing of every child. And now, the Finnish model is set to come to Australia.
Consistently in the “top of the charts” in OECD rankings, there are a number of points of difference about the Finnish early childhood education and care experience. Pedagogical Director of Finnish organisation, Learning Scoop, explains:
Foreign visitors find so many things in the Finnish early childhood education intriguing: for instance the learning environments designed from the child’s point of view, the relaxed and flexible organisation of the day, the fundamentality of physical activities, the creativity and diversity in everyday activities, the subtle yet determined guiding by teachers, children learning by doing, making observations and reflecting, the versatile learning materials and the overall warm and supportive atmosphere in the Finnish early childhood education.
Learning about the Finnish early childhood education and care (ECEC) model leaves some to question how it is possible for Finnish children, with a “late” start to school, learn so quickly and achieve a high standard of literacy and numeracy. Could it be a link to their ECEC experience, and, if so, could this be replicated in Australia to the same result?
The capacity for the Finnish model to be rolled out, at least in some small part in Australia, has been realised recently, with owner Ken Yu choosing to partner with HEI Schools and develop Australia’s first ECEC site inspired by the Finnish education system.
HEI Emerald transferred ownership to Mr Yu in May 2018, as a 60-place centre in the South Eastern Greater Melbourne suburb of Emerald, with a rating of Working Towards the National Quality Standards when assessed in 2017.
The centre has undergone a full renovation, with a spokesperson for HEI describing the environment as having “a strong sense of Nordic design” and “learning spaces which have been remodeled to complement the HEI Schools curriculum, holistically incorporating the entire learning environment”.
“We are eager to adopt models that enhance children’s development while in turn supporting our local Melbourne educators. The HEI Schools model satisfies both needs through offering a curriculum based on the latest findings in early education best practices for our children as well as offering a comprehensive training platform for my educators – the choice was clear in terms of partnering with HEI Schools,” said Mr Yu.
Ongoing education and support for educators was an important consideration for Mr Yu, who said a team of pedagogical guides joined the HEI Emerald educators before the centre opened, and will continue to mentor alongside the local educators for the first months of classes.
“HEI Schools adds a holistic, child initiated pedagogy in conjunction with the Australian standards. Learning together within the school’s daily life focuses on children’s interests and needs in a playful way. Ongoing educator training is a crucial element of HEI Schools as well. The teaching community share best practices along with the passion of developing and learning together, which provides the best possible environment for children to learn” said Sylvia Hakari, Pedagogical Director HEI Schools.
Centre Director Amanda Patris said she was excited to be introducing the HEI Schools experience to the children of Melbourne saying “the philosophy offers the children an opportunity to play and learn together in a primarily play-based curriculum. It’s refreshing to be offering children in our community relaxed and focused attention to their needs, interests and competencies”.
More information about HEI Schools is available on their website