Spidery scrawls across faintly lined paper or the carefully penned love letter will be the stuff of fairytales for many young Finns thanks to a new government policy. Schools in Finland are phasing out cursive handwriting classes in favour of keyboard skills, as officials accept that texting, tapping and tweeting have taken over as the primary means of communication in the modern age.
“We used to do joined-up writing so that we could write faster, but these days kids only start learning it in grade two [aged eight] and have a year to get it right before moving on to concentrating on what they write, rather than simply how they write it,” said Minna Harmanen of Finland’s National Board of Education. “They don’t have time to become fast at cursive writing, so it’s not useful for them.”
Joined-up writing has also become more difficult since Finns introduced new ways of writing their letters in 1986: “We moved from the old Swedish-derived handwriting style to a more modern one and now a few letters look very similar to each other in joined-up writing,” explained Harmanen. “It’s not easy for children to write – or for teachers to read. When they write in print, it’s clearer.” From 2016, pupils will be taught only print handwriting and will spend more time learning keyboard skills – “something we recognise is very important for the job market,” said Harmanen.
My niece is nearly turning two, it's probably time for me to teach her how to switch to the emoji keyboard in iOS, followed by Advanced Instagram Filtering and the Spatial UI Basics of Snapchat. If the schools won't add this stuff to their curriculum, I'm on it as an uncle who wants his nieces and nephews to be digitally fluent.