Five unusual facts about schools across the world

Your school experience is likely to have varied from the next person’s but what would it have been like if you’d lived in a different country altogether? Here are five school practices you might be less familiar with!

1. Forest Schools, Sweden

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Did you know it is mandatory for children in Sweden to attend school from the year they turn six? This means that in the years leading up to this, they can choose to attend pre-school or förskola. One option to get children learning in these early years is Skogsmulle - an early years teaching pedagogy which focuses on outdoor learning.

The idea has been popular across Scandinavia but it came to Sweden in the 1950s when Gösta Frohm wanted to re-connect children with nature and so set up a school for children aged five to six. He utilised the character of ‘Skogsmulle’ (a character ‘living in the forest’) to encourage children to explore their natural surroundings. The idea is popular around the world with ‘Forest Schools’ appearing in the Germany, UK, USA, Australia and beyond.

2. Cleaning, Japan

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Whilst in the UK children might tidy their classroom or put their leftovers in the bin after lunch, Japanese school life takes it one step further. From a young age, children are tasked with helping to clean and maintain their school after the school day finishes. This includes wiping windows, sweeping and mopping the floor, dusting desks and even serving lunch to each other.

It is thought that, by cleaning up after themselves, children take on a sense of responsibility for their environment.

3. School lunches, France

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Teaching children about the importance of healthy food is a priority in France. One of the main ways this is done is by offering nutritious food in schools as well as ensuring children establish a good routine and good attitude towards mealtimes – they are expected to stay in their seat for at least thirty minutes to allow food to be eaten.

When children start school, they eat four courses for lunch. This usually consists of a cold starter, a warm main course, followed by cheese and then dessert – generally fresh fruit! Not forgetting an accompaniment of a slice of bread and a glass of water.

4. Cycling to school, Denmark

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How did you get to school? From their first day, children in Denmark are encouraged to think carefully about which option to choose – this includes cycling! In Odense, the third largest city in Denmark, different initiatives exist to help children become more confident in riding a bike which has led to a significant number using this form of transport for the school run.

Initiatives range from bicycle summer schools where children can learn the basics ahead of going to school to the construction of hundreds of kilometres of cycle paths.

5. Indoor playtime, Canada

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How cold is too cold? In Canada, winter temperatures can drop far below freezing. In regions such as Ontario many schools either shorten playtime or keep children indoors at break time entirely if temperatures reach below -20°C to -28°C. This means that children must be sure to keep active indoors to avoid a lack of physical activity during winter.

On days when temperatures plummet even further, children can avoid going to school altogether! On the other days, children must navigate getting to school despite the snow. At least in Toronto there is a network of underground tunnels so that you can shelter from the cold and still get where you need to go whilst briefly escaping the chill.

Know someone starting primary school soon? Check out the rest of Starting Primary School which has lots of ways to help prepare children for different aspects of school life – both practically and emotionally.