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Nest-Ed: Why Scandinavian education creates the happiest children in the world?

Nest-Ed: Why Scandinavian education creates the happiest children in the world?


Nest-Ed is a series on big ideas. Ideas worth exploring, ideas that provoke thought, ideas that inspire action. We interview thought leaders who introduce you to their work, their inspirational ideas and their unique lifestyles.

In this issue of Nest-Ed, we talk to Helen Issar and Darshana Rajaram of Papagoya. Papagoya is an early-learning center based on the Norwegian model of education.  We at The Nestery wanted to learn more about this model of education to understand how it contributes to creating the happiest children and adults in the world. Let's find out more about  Norwegian education and their unique space.

What is the Norwegian model of education?

The Norwegian model of education is primarily based on play. It is based on the belief that children between the ages of 0 to 6 years should spend the majority of their time playing, especially unstructured play. It is a holistic approach focusing on skills like independence, confidence, empathy, kindness and much more. This allows the child to craft their own learning journey. There is also a great emphasis on communicating with the child and having conversations about nature, the environment, art, culture, the environment and ethics.

How is it different from Finnish education, that we hear so much about?

Education is largely approached the same way in all the Scandinavian countries, except for the differences in language. Finnish education has just been well-publicized on a global platform, while Norwegian education has not.

How does the Scandinavian model of education compare to other popular methods of alternative education like Waldorf and Montessori?

Norwegian education is less philosophy-focused than Waldorf education and less self-driven than Montessori education. It encourages collaboration with children working and playing together in groups, while also embracing contemporary practices. Scandinavian education is relevant as it is funded by the governments of the countries.  They ensure that the educational model is extensively researched and updated every 5 years based on the latest practices and science. For example, The Norwegian pedagogy includes teaching children good digital practices. This helps them navigate the technological world that we live in today.

What are the things we can do at home to incorporate some of the qualities of Norwegian education?

  • Do not rush children into doing things. Their days should be slow and relaxed with an organic flow rather than rushing from one task to another.
  • Provide opportunities for kids to be independent and feel a sense of accomplishment. For example, encourage your child to eat on their own, then put away their plate and wash their hands.
  • Encourage all kinds of play, especially unstructured outdoor play with other children. 
  • Do not discourage risky play as it gives children the opportunity to stretch their boundaries and analyze risk.
  • Encourage the use of technology in useful ways, rather than passive screen time. For example, use an online map for an in-person treasure hunt. This is an interesting way to connect the online and offline world.

This style of education espouses longer school hours. Why is this so and how do children spend their day?

Longer school hours in this style of education is meant to help parents, especially mothers in the Indian scenario stay in the workforce. They strongly believe that parents are not meant to engage their children by themselves for the entire day as it is difficult for them to give their child the high-quality interaction and engagement that they need.

Norwegian schools go beyond just being a “school” or “daycare”. They develop the social, emotional and physical skills of a child, all through fun days filled with play and activities.

The children have very slow, organic days with breaks for meals and naps. There is no pushing of children from one activity to the next or from classroom to classroom. The children are at the center of everything done at school.

 They also encourage play-based learning so the children spend most of their time playing, expending their energy and learning with their bodies.

What does play-based learning mean in this style of education?

In the Norwegian style of education, children learn through free, unstructured and risky play. That is what they spend the majority of their day doing. There are no classrooms. They are learning activities for children who are 3+ and have dropped their afternoon nap but these are just a short, fun part of the day. They are introduced to basic literacy and numeracy, but each child has their own takeaway from these activities. This essentially means that each child is capable of crafting their own learning journey.

How would children transition from this model of education in the early years to mainstream Indian education?

Ideally, parents will look for alternative schools with a more open, flexible curriculum. However, the Scandinavian model of education sets a solid foundation for the child in the first six years of their life. The children who leave these schools are confident, independent and able to deal with change. They have the skills to navigate the mainstream education system. So they should be able to fit into any schooling model.

What makes Papagoya unique?

Firstly, Papagoya is the first to bring the Norwegian model of education to India. Secondly, their values of supporting working parents is something we can get behind whole-heartedly. The school hours are between 10 am to 4 pm. This bridges the gap between school and help working parents to stay in the workforce.

Lastly, Equal parenting is very important at Papagoya - There is a strong focus on partners participating equally in the child’s upbringing and education.

We hope learnt a little bit more about the Scandinavian/Norwegian education in the early years. You can find the Papagoya website HERE! Do check out the website to read more about Scandinavian education and the school’s core philosophy.


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