Transversal competencies are here to stay!

Written by Eija Ruohomäki, MA, Senior Advisor for Education 

The ethos of Finnish education is quite well-known: an educational system not emphasizing competition, providing equal opportunities for all, an educational system that allows, not limits future choices at all levels of education, high ethical orientation and commitment of teachers that leads to strong trust on the work of the professionals at schools. But to what extent are transversal competencies in Finnish basic education familiar to you?

Let us go back in time to the year 2016. Do you remember seeing headlines like “Finland schools: subjects scrabbed and replaced with topics!”, “Finland will eliminate school subjects and give children freedom” and “Finland set to become the first country in the World to abolish books and subjects from the educational system”? I do! Phew, what a nightmare it must have been to people working at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture and the Finnish National Agency for Education when they were trying to answer all the questions aimed at them by foreign media and educational experts around the world. The canard had partly to do with misinterpreting the role of transversal competencies in the National Core Curricula for Basic Education, the national regulation issued by the Finnish National Board of Education.

To tell you the truth, there were also a lot of misconceptions and doubts among teachers in Finland, too. What is the real position of transversal competencies in Finnish primary and secondary education? The common objectives of different school subjects are described in seven transversal competencies (T1-T7). They are supposed to be the common thread in teaching and learning all subjects. In addition, together they construct the most fruitful starting point for designing multidisciplinary learning modules. Since 2016 multidisciplinary learning modules are normative, not an option in basic education in Finland.

Collaboration between teachers of different subjects and increased pupil and student participation is presumed when turning multidisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning modules in all schools in Finland. Easier said than done, I am afraid! However, teachers can be trained to include the “T´s” in their teaching in several ways, not only during multidisciplinary learning modules but also when teaching individual subjects. In addition to actual training, there is a need of -and hopefully, a lot of possibilities for – sharing best practices among teachers on how to make the transversal competencies everybody´s cup of ”T”!

The most important consideration is, oftransversal_competencies_objectives course, to realize what the above means to the pupils and students, children and youth themselves. One of the objectives of the latest curriculum reform in basic education, both primary and secondary levels, was to create better opportunities for meaningful and joyful learning for all pupils and students. Pupils and students need to be able to concentrate on larger phenomena instead of details, gather knowledge, acquire skills, adapt and possibly change values, develop and refine attitudes and -most importantly- to be willing to act accordingly in their personal lives, at a school or in a larger community or to make the world a better place. Transversal competencies are not only future skills for pupils and students but of use at any age and time!

T3 ie. the third transversal competence in the Finnish Core Curriculum for Basic Education is “Taking Care of Oneself and Managing Daily Life”. T3 and all the other transversal competencies are supposed to help the pupils and students manage their lives. They do not have to be familiar with the term “transversal competence”. However, the impact of transversal competencies should be visible in their growth as human beings and as citizens. If transversal competencies can nurture growth, don´t you think they should stay


Eija Ruohomäki, MA -English Philology (Major), Nordic Philology (Minor), Pedagogical studies– has over 25 years of experience as a teacher. Ms. Ruohomäki also worked as an advisory teacher for language teaching and internationalization for seven years at the Educational and Cultural Services, City of Oulu Northern Finland.
As a project manager, she was responsible for a development project for language teaching called Kielitivoli (“the Language Fair”) in the North Ostrobothnian region in 2012-2013 and for a nationwide project called INTO, “Internationalization at schools” (2010-2012). Both development projects were funded by the Finnish National Agency for Education (previously called the National Board of Education).
She was a member of curriculum design teams at national and local levels (2014-2016).
Currently, she works as a Co-ordinator for the UNICEF Child-Friendly City initiative and a Senior Advisor for Education at the City of Oulu.

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Melina Rauhala

Ms. Rauhala (B.A.) is an educational sciences student at the University of Turku with studies also in the fields of psychology, business and HR, and sociology. As an education major, she is passionate about lifelong learning and the Finnish education system. She believes in change through education. In addition, Ms. Rauhala loves to learn new languages.  She completed an Erasmus + university exchange in Spain as a part of her studies and wants to work toward everyone getting international learning opportunities. Ms. Rauhala is working for VisitEDUfinn part-time while finishing her studies. 


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