So since writing a recent blog on Food Education in Japan, I have become very interested in how children around the world learn about health,nutrition, food and wellbeing.
I believe that our health is our wealth and that educators should do all in their power to educate young people about the importance of self care and looking after their bodies and their minds. So over the next few months I will be writing blogs on how children around the world are educated about food,nutrition and health.I am hoping that this will inspire me and perhaps others to take examples of good practice from around the world to improve how we teach our pupils.Feel free to read and share if you are interested.
So last week, it was Japan. This week it’s Finland.
In a recent survey by UNICEF on child wellbeing in rich countries, Finland was ranked number four, with Denmark coming in with the highest rating.
William Doyle, recently published an article on why Finland has the best schools. I have summarised his main points in the paragraph below.
Basic education is compulsory in Finland.Children don’t have formal education until the age of seven and up until this age, most children are in daycare and learn through play, songs, games and through having conversations.Most children walk or ride a bike to school and school hours are short. Home work is set but it is light work.School children in Finland have a mandatory 15 minute outdoor free play break every hour of every day and fresh air, nature and physical actives are considered engines of learning.In Finland, teachers are the most trusted and admired professionals next to doctors.Pre primary and basic education are provided free of charge this includes school meals, teaching materials, school transport and full welfare services.
Food Education and school meals in Finland
Finland was the first country in the world to serve free school meals in 1948.The Basic Education Act states that pupils attending school must be provided with a properly organised and supervised balanced meal free of charge every day.
The school meal should be used as a learning tool to teach about good nutrition and eating habits.
The school meals should contain all the components of a well balanced meal following guidelines for schools issued by the National Nutrition Council.In 2008, this council approved nutrition recommendations for school meals. These include food and nutrient recommendations for salt, fibre, fat and starch maximums. There are also criteria for snacks provided in schools.
A school meal should equate to about one third of a child’s daily intake.
It should be colourful, tasty and well balanced.
Pupils can also work in the school canteen.Older pupils help their younger peers to get their meals and make healthier choices
Lunch is only well balanced if all the components of the meals are eaten. It is recommended that a staple of the meal is on display on a tray at self service canteens.
Schools who show exemplary practice can be awarded the school meal diploma. The diploma is awarded for organising nutritionally, educationally and ecologically sustainable school meals through a multifaceted cooperation between various operators.
In Finland, education is a key part of awareness raising on health issues and compulsory classes in health education and home economics are part of basic education. Learning practical skills is highly valued.Many schools teach pupils about where food comes from and arrange excursions to farms and trips to go blueberry picking.Food education is a central element of each school day.
Home economics is a compulsory school subject for all pupils on the 7 th grade of basic education.All 7th graders in Finland are required to take home economics for three hours each week. There are two hours of practical lessons each week and one hour of theory. Home economics is offered as an optional subject in grade 8 and 9. Home economics has proved to be one of the most popular optional school subjects in Finland. According to Pasi Sahlberg, the author of Finnish lessons, home economics is the most popular elective for middle school boys in Finland.
So what could I personally take from this information to improve food education in my school? I’m thinking:
To introduce blackberry picking lessons followed by cooking with blackberries during a seasonal food lunchtime club.
To consider the idea of giving pupils learning breaks, particularly during double lessons.
To evaluate schools meals provided using photos and compare them with what a balanced meal should provide as advised by the eatwell guide. This is particularly relevant where pupils choose what to have for lunch. Are they actually choosing a well balanced meal ? Let the pupils reflect on this.
Yes, I am aware that there are many social, economic, environmental factors etc that ultimately influence health statistics and morbidity rates in countries and that these can vary greatly between cultures .Hovever, it is interesting to see what works and what may not work in terms of education world wide. So I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed researching and learning about food education in Finland.
Next stop is Malta.
World cancer research fund international nourishing framework
William Doyle, This is why Finland has the best schools.Sydney Morning Herald , March 26 2016
Finnish national board of education school meals in Finland, Investment in learning
School meal revolutionaries from Finland.