Finland scraps cursive writing lessons in favour of typing classes

Running-writing dropped: Finland is replacing cursive writing for typing lessons.
Running-writing dropped: Finland is replacing cursive writing for typing lessons. Photo: Getty

Cursive handwriting classes will be scrapped in favour of computer typing classes in Finnish primary schools.

The change, which will begin in the 2016 school year, has been attributed to the declining relevance of cursive writing 

Minna Harmanen from Finland's National Board of Education told Savon Sanomat, "fluent typing skills are an important national competence".

Professor Robyn Ewing, a lecturer in curriculum and English at the University of Sydney, says that, while typing skills are important, there are benefits to students learning proper penmanship early on.

"Handwriting improves hand-eye coordination, but it also allows us to express ourselves," she says.

Ewing notes that, by around Year 6, students have started to develop their own style of writing which is specific to them, saying that there's "something special" about writing or receiving a handwritten letter, as opposed to a text message.

Ewing believes changing the curriculum in such a way is a slippery slope in the long-term.

"More and more we are starting to see voice control in technology, does that mean we should give writing away altogether?" She asks.

"There are always going to be situations in which we don't have a smartphone on hand, and will need legible writing."

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Finland is not the only country doing away with 'running-writing'. It is not compulsory to teach cursive writing to primary school students in 40 U.S. states.

In Australia, NAPLAN tests (the standardised tests taken by students across the country in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9) will be taken online on an opt-in basis from 2017, although high school leavers' qualifications in all states and territories are overwhelmingly still based on handwritten assessment.

Professor Ewing thinks there is merit in strengthening computer skills by having children complete their NAPLAN exams online, although she says this should not come at the expense of handwriting instruction.

"I definitely think that improving typing skills is a good idea. But it shouldn't be a matter of 'either/or'."