A Comparative Analysis of the Purpose of
Kindergarten in Finland and Ontario, Canada
The theories of Friedrich Froebel, the founder of kindergarten have influenced kindergartens in several regions including in Finland and Ontario, Canada. The kindergarten program in Finland is one of envy as it contributes the nation’s successful educational system. Kindergarten in Finland is a free service available to all children, which is similar to Ontario, Canada’s program which is also free to children in the province. The following paper will explore kindergarten in Finland and Ontario and illustrate that in spite of their differing systems, the principal focus of kindergarten in each region is to prepare students for formal schooling. The programs, curriculum, teacher qualifications and roles in each area collectively support school readiness. The educational systems in both Finland and Ontario are designed in such a way that each stage of education merges into the other, with kindergarten being the initial stage.
Attending school is a common routine throughout the world, with the purpose of schooling being fairly similar. As a result of societal differences, conceptions of the purpose of schooling are relative to the regions in which the schooling takes place, thus a clear global consensus for the purpose of schooling has yet to be established. In spite of a lacking global understanding, the purposes of schooling throughout the world are comparable and typically encompass providing children with educational experiences that foster academic and social development. An additional common purpose is to help students achieve academic mastery; however children require experiences that will develop abilities and skills that are necessary to achieve academic mastery. These experiences typically occur through kindergarten education. Without providing children with kindergarten experiences, they may be unfamiliar with the formal schooling environment and what it entails, thus limiting school readiness. Similarly, the conceptions of the purpose of kindergarten are also quite common throughout the world and often include a combination of play and educational programs. It is perceived that kindergarten experiences are fundamental for the transition to formal schooling (Graue, 2009, p.28). Friedrich Froebel, the pioneer of kindergarten believed that “there should be a closer harmony between kindergarten and the first two primary grades” (Heydon & Wang, 2006, p. 36). Froebel’s beliefs are evident in kindergartens around the world, as many programs support a continuum between kindergarten and the commencement of formal schooling. Kindergarten, also known as early childhood education in some parts of the world, continuously receives a lot of global attention. Recently Canada has been in the media for kindergarten reform. The nation’s province of Ontario has looked to Nordic countries, such as Finland to draw on it’s kindergarten model because of its success in Finnish society.
In addition to their kindergarten system, the Finnish formal education system has been coveted around the world. For the last few years Finland's primary education system has been the envy of the Western world as the country's 15-year-olds have been leading the world on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) program for international student assessments (PISA) (Jiménez, 2009).
The Finnish educational system ranks first among forty of the worlds most industrialized nations (Hakkarainen, 2008, p. 267). The consensus is that the educational success enjoyed by Finland “is attributed to their free high quality early childhood education programs” (Mead, 2008). As a result of this correlation, and globalization, industrialized nations may begin to restructure their kindergarten program to compare with Finland’s in hopes that children in their regions perform well on international assessments. Industrialized nations may potentially...
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