THE LOS PACOS neighbourhood of Fuengirola is said to be the largest Finnish colony outside of the Nordic countries. It is also the home of The Finnish School.
The unusual neighbourhood, which was once just a few dusty streets on the outside of town, has a unique appearance created by the marriage of Finnish signage with the 70s architecture typically seen in Malaga.
However, Nordic culture triumphs in the Finnish School of Fuengirola, which has containers full of recycled bottles, an early lunchtime between 11.10 and 11.30, and well-behaved students raising their hands and forming queues.
Located in an area known as Little Helsinki, the school is the only establishment outside of Finland that steers students through pre-school to A-levels. Currently, 282 Finnish students attend classes at the school, which has 40 employees, 27 of them teachers, and costs €2,000 a year to attend.
In line with several modifications to Finnish national curriculum, the successful school is committed to its own evolution and will make changes to its existing model before August 2016. Those include combining project-based learning methods with traditional subject-based ones, and encouraging professors to take the role of a ´coach´ or guide who will accompany students on their journey to knowledge. The emphasis on handwriting skills will also shift as students are encouraged to work with printed characters.
Jorma Kauppinen is the director of General Education of the National Board of Education, the Finnish Government agency that makes study plans. She confirmed the school´s decision to adapt its curriculum, saying that it reflected “the environment that surrounds the school” which, she argues, is “in constant transformation.”