International Journal of Art & Design Education

Craft Education in Finland: Definitions, Rationales, and the Future

Volume 21.2   2002



The status, content, and social factors influencing craft education in Finland, a standard subject in comprehensive schools, were examined during interviews with craft teachers, craft teacher preparers, and educational administrators. In this paper, the following areas are examined: How are crafts defined? What rationales and cultural and social factors keep craft education robust and what factors threaten it? What is perceived as the future of craft education?

Definitions of crafts in schooling varied among interviewees, with some arguing to maintain traditional divisions between art and craft, and between craft subjects of textiles and technical work, and others noting distinction in these subjects only in the materials and techniques used. Some interviewees associated art teaching with self-expression and craft with skill, materials, and techniques. The context for craft education is affected by Finland’s rapid change, after World War II, from a rural agrarian society to an urban and highly technological one, is understood as putting pressure on craft education to remain meaningful. Rationales given by interviewees for teaching craft in schools fell into five categories: craft provides 1) cognitive development in several dimensions, 2) learning about living in the world, 3) Finnish traditions and culture, 4) social and individual growth, and 5) a break from the demands of academic subjects. All interviewees seemed to agree that teaching crafts in Finland is changing in terms of how teachers are prepared, who writes curriculum, the content of the curriculum, and the configuration of craft in the comprehensive school curriculum. Some interviewees portended a decline in craft education in public schooling, while others embraced change as part of nation building.