What Is the Scandinavian Teaching Style?

Dania Scandinavian School

The Scandinavian teaching style is revered worldwide. Of course it is. Nordic countries find themselves consistently within the top 10 countries for educational quality. But what sets them apart from the rest of the world in terms of educational provision? What is the Scandinavian teaching style?

It’s up for Discussion

Is there such a thing as a defined Scandinavian teaching style? Scandinavia, after all, is (essentially) made up of three distinct and separate countries: Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Sometimes Finland and Iceland are included. 

Regardless, the Scandinavian teaching style isn’t a specific model that is employed across the region. Each country pretty much does its own thing.

However, there are some key similarities across the board that form the essence of the Scandinavian approach to teaching.

Scandinavian countries provide a more equitable and holistic education system. Everyone has equal opportunities and education is an ongoing dialogue between teachers, students and parents.

With this in mind, one of the main differences between the Scandinavian teaching style and other educational models is the emphasis on continual evaluation as a way of measuring progression, as opposed to formal assessments.

It’s a more observational way of assessing the children.

Let’s face it. Being tested repeatedly can be intimidating. 

And judging a child’s overall knowledge, understanding and ability based on their performance on a single day, is ludicrous.


So, instead of killing the joy of learning with constant assessments and standardised testing, the Scandinavian teaching style embraces playfulness.

Because school is something every child should enjoy.

Learning should be exciting and fun. 

Otherwise, it becomes transactional, functional, and boring. A thing to be endured as a means to an end.

Play is so important to the Scandinavian teaching style that in Danish, we have two words for it: 

  1. Spille: Playing in an environment with rules and regulations (a more structured activity). 
  2. Lege (which is actually where the word Lego comes from): Playing when there are no rules, so you can be creative and make it up as you go along.

Conversely, in English, there’s just one word for play.

Now, everyone is familiar with the first kind of play, particularly within a school environment. This is more commonly known as sport.

However, it’s the second type of play we’re more interested in. The creative play. The completely unstructured ‘lege’ where a child’s imagination drives and defines the game they come up with, allowing the game to develop and evolve continuously. This is the kind of play we like to encourage.

It builds autonomy and unleashes creativity.

So, What Is the Scandinavian Teaching Style?

We want our students to be life-long learners who enjoy learning because knowledge and understanding is its own reward. 

We want imaginative and creative learners free to explore their own interests independently, but also happy to take others along for the ride too.

We want education to be a conversation, not a diktat.

In other words, playful learning where progression is measured via an ongoing evaluative dialogue is the essence of the Scandinavian teaching style.

If it sounds like fun, it’s because it is.