May 8, 2019

Finland must step up to help solve the global learning crisis​

Annika Sundbäck-Lindroos

Head of the impact programme at Finnish National Agency for Education EDUFI

In 2018, a World Bank report received worldwide attention for warning about a global learning crisis. Students in low- and middle-income countries face lost opportunities in life because their primary and secondary schools are failing to educate them properly. Learning outcomes are very weak and, if nothing is done, half of the world’s children will graduate without basic skills in literacy and numeracy by 2030.

Finland, a country with one of the most respected education systems in the world, should therefore take a more active role in addressing the learning crisis in developing countries.

Finland must prioritise the education sector in development collaboration, both politically and financially. Information sharing, multi-stakeholder collaboration and professional development are needed to scale up the existing Finnish-led development co-operation activities in the education sector.

There is immense demand worldwide and Finland has a lot to offer e.g. in terms of lifelong learning, reforms, quality assurance, foresight, student-centred learning, inclusion, mother-tongue teaching, vocational education and applied sciences.

Education is highly valued in Finland. It has helped Finland grow from a poor country to a highly successful nation. Finland has a proven track record of achieving a wide societal impact with its education system, with a strong focus on ensuring equal access for all regardless of age, residence, economic situation, gender, and linguistic and cultural background. In many developing countries, access to quality education is still strongly linked to residence or income level and students with special needs are weakly integrated.

In Finland, the system is based on trust rather than control and the focus is on learning, not steering.

In Finland, the system is based on trust rather than control and the focus is on learning, not steering. Education providers are responsible for quality, for ensuring solid internal quality assurance and continuous development. Teaching follows a learner-centred approach, where the joy of learning and student welfare are central, and where individual learning patterns are respected.

One alleged secret of the Finnish system are highly educated teachers, who are trusted, respected and enjoy a high level of autonomy. In Finland, the best secondary school graduates apply to university and teacher education, and this study field is as competitive as medicine or law. A shared global understanding of the importance of the role of teachers and research-based teaching and learning would be a welcome step towards solving the learning crisis.

For the sake of all the children and young people in the world, Finland – the education superpower that it is – should also be a more visible global actor in reducing inequality, fostering critical thinking and providing livelihood opportunities through education.

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