It will not be compulsory to learn cursive in Finland, but the final decision is up to the schools.

Minna Harmanen, head of the Finnish National Institute of Education, explains to ABC that traditional calligraphy will not be mandatory, but handwriting with print will be maintained and the use of the keyboard will be encouraged.

"Handwriting with a pen does not end, and is considered very important for acquiring skills and memory." This is how blunt Minna Harmanen, head ofthe Finnish National Institute of Education , is when asked if Finland is going to ban handwriting from its curriculum.

The plans of this body dependent on the Finnish Ministry of Education were advanced by the Finnish newspaper Savon Sanomat and soon spread throughout the world. Finland, the model country for education in Europe , was displacing handwriting in favor of the computer keyboard, some media said. "There has been a misunderstanding in the news about the teaching of calligraphy," Minna Harmanen clarifies to ABC. Since August 2016, Finnish children who start compulsory school at the age of seven will have to learn the strokes of a single type of writing, that of the printed letter, and the teaching of the continuous letter or cursive calligraphy that now it is taught together with the first. Time spent on traditional calligraphy will be used to teach typing, something Finnish education officials believe will be more useful to schoolchildren in their working lives. For the Finnish Minister of Education, cursive calligraphy "is a tradition, but what traditions are not changing?", she wonders.

-Is it true that Finland is going to stop teaching handwriting?

There has been a misunderstanding in the news about calligraphy in Finland. Actually, the novelty is that it will not be mandatory to learn cursive handwriting from August 2016. Now children have to learn two types of handwriting: cursive and print. Handwriting as writing that is done with the hand and a pen does not end and is considered very important to improve fine motor skills, to acquire dexterity and memory.

From August 2016, only one type of handwriting will have to be learned. Block writing is faster and the letters can be joined more or less so that your own writing style will develop. Personal style of writing will still be possible.

-Why this change? What has led you to take this step? Do you have studies that support your initiative?

The reason for the change is that cursive writing is only used at school. Personal notebooks are less common in schools than exercise books, where less writing is required. Later, in working life, almost all the texts are done with the computer and therefore the ability to type fluently is important.

I think that the change is not as big as it may seem at first: almost all the students who now finish their basic education (13-16 years old) mainly use block letters when writing by hand. If you need cursive handwriting only in the early school years, why should you learn it? In addition, cursive has been criticized for being difficult to learn.

-Are Finnish teachers ready for change?

Now in grades 1 and 2 of the Curriculum (2004) it is said that students must "draw the shapes of letters, learn the upper and lower case of cursive and print letters, and combine letters" so that "they are able to of connecting letters when they write by hand, and of producing the same text on a computer.” The problem with contemporary cursive letters is that they are very similar to those in print. Also note that computer skills are mentioned.

Will the change be applied to all schools in the country?

Each school makes its own curriculum based on the national basic education curriculum. A school's own curriculum may also include cursive writing. Therefore, it can be taught.

-Teaching to write on a keyboard from the first course will require a significant investment so that each student has their tablet or computer...

The change does not mean that every student must have an electronic device. Schools are the ones who decide how often students practice with computers.

-How has the initiative been received in Finland?

There has been some discussion in the media, against and for the change. I think the role of cursive writing in Finland is different from other countries. This change that we are undertaking is based on and is related to the principle of equality in Finnish education. For example, students who have trouble learning in general have even more difficulty learning cursive than print. Yes, it is a tradition, but what traditions are not changing?

Published by the ABC Newspaper on December 2, 2014

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