Nordic Know-How: Teaching Children About Themselves & the World

Nordic education systems, and indeed Nordic values, are renowned the world over. Why?
Source: HEI Schools

Source: HEI Schools

In a recent New York Times opinion piece, “This is How Scandinavia Got Great,”* author David Brooks argues that the answer lies in their approach to education. Scandinavian schools, unlike many other countries’ counterparts, strive to develop the whole person, to encourage the moral, emotional, intellectual and civic transformation of each individual through education. Brooks argues that because other countries tend to focus on the tangible skills and ignore the rest, they are not as successful in developing well-functioning societies.  

This approach goes back centuries. When constructing their educational policies in the 1800s, the Nordic nations decided to prioritize and promote lifelong learning, making it a part of everyday life, and consequently, chose to take a holistic approach to education. They realized that in order to have a successful, well-run society, they needed to cultivate an innate sense of responsibility in each individual toward their family, friends, fellow citizens, society, nation and the planet. Through education, they sought to change the way children see the world, to understand themselves as individuals, and to recognize the complex systems and relationships in society. In this way, children developed a strong sense of self-awareness, social consciousness and responsibility to others.

At HEI Schools, we have developed the tenants of Nordic education through the HEI Way, which is comprised of five parts: curiosity & creativity, active participation, a culture of trust, a sustainable way of living, and learning everywhere & all the time. Through these principles, we strive to develop each child’s sense of moral duty to self, others and planet, to instill a love of lifelong learning and to cultivate a complex set of social-emotional skills. By applying the latest research findings to our curriculum, we have successfully built a scalable system that can be used around the world. Read more about the HEI Way and how we embody the Nordic philosophy.

If you’re a teacher interested in the Finnish teaching philosophy, consider the HEI Schools Teacher Diploma! Available to all teachers around the world, this comprehensive certification program was created with University of Helsinki and includes all the components that make Nordic education so successful. Join our weekly webinar to learn more!


* The author of this article appears to use the terms ‘Nordic’ and ‘Scandinavian’ interchangeably. While the term Scandinavia generally refers to the kingdoms of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, the term Nordic refers to a broader geographical area which also includes Finland and Iceland.