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Finnish educators form partnerships to advance learning worldwide

Finnish educators are finding ways to inspire children of all ages in all parts of the world to learn.Kim Öhrling / HEI Schools

Finnish experts in pedagogy and education technology are poised to expand their global impact through partnerships struck near and far.

The Finnish education system, along with its many forward-looking practices and solutions, has continued drawing interest from all parts of the world. With education authorities, providers and companies tapping into the interest especially in the past decade, education has emerged as a significant export industry for Finland.

The value of education exports rocketed by more than 100 million to 385 million euros in the five years between 2014 and 2019, according to the Finnish National Agency for Education (OPH). The value is to be raised to one billion euros by 2030 through a roadmap with four focus areas: education technologies, digital education services and learning environments; early-childhood education; pedagogics and practices in basic education; and vocational education.

“For us to succeed, it is pivotal to truly understand the demand and produce an increasingly comprehensive offering,” Minister for Development Co-operation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnariemphasised in June 2020.

The pandemic has emphasised the need for edtech solutions. Image: Adobe

“We need long-term and purposeful activity, new kind of systems-level thinking and genuinely business-driven exports.”

While the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact also on education exports, erasing demand for expert trainings and educational camps for foreign students, it has created opportunities for digital content and online training providers, among others.

“The path out of the coronavirus crisis will look different for every company, educational institution and university,” said Hanna Kosonen, the Minister of Science and Culture at the time.

Sustainability education in Chile

Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) has found one in sustainable development.

It recently launched a teacher training programme designed to spread the themes of sustainable development from the classroom to families, communities and society at large in Chile. Offered by the Federation of Chilean Industry, the Aula Sostenible (en. sustainable classroom) programme tackles both environmental and social sustainability issues, thus aligning with the sustainable development goals of the UN.

“It just happens to be the most important thing in the world,” statedElina Harju, teacher at Aula Sostenible. “Whatever we do, we should think about sustainable development – and more boldly than today.”

Most of the programme participants live and work in Valparaíso, the second most populous region of Chile. The geologically and socially challenged region has witnessed the effects of the climate emergency first-hand, with fresh drinking water reserves under threat from droughts.

Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) has begun training teachers in Valparaíso, Chile, on the themes of sustainable development. Image: Pexels

The programme seeks to not only increase awareness about sustainable development, but also spur concrete actions by tasking the participants with developing a locally significant sustainability theme under the mentorship of TAMK. The Chilean teachers will be provided with information on sustainability goals, as well as pedagogical tools for fulfilling the sustainable development goal of inclusive and equitable education.

Harju said the teachers have been particularly impressed with one aspect of the Finnish education model.

“They emphasised very strongly that children get to play in the Finnish system: how we start school so late and how we still play at school after that. It clearly resonated with the participants,” she described the reaction from the first remote meeting.

Finnish schools to open in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan

EduCluster Finland (ECF) in April announced it has signed agreements for opening Finland International Schools in Shymkent, Kazakhstan, and Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Co-created with Al-Farabi Academic School and Tashkent Education respectively, the schools are to open later this year for pupils in the early stages of basic education before expanding all the way to grade 12 in the coming years.

The agreements mark the eighth and ninth global school partnerships for ECF.

In Kazakhstan, the education specialist will assume an active role especially during the setup and launch phase of the school before transitioning to a role that supports the provision of high-quality education.

“We want to offer the best possible education to our children in Kazakhstan,” saidAishagul Shaikhina, director of Al-Farabi Academic School.

In Uzbekistan, the partnership will enable the organisations to bring together their educational expertise for the benefit of students and families alike, according to Kati Loponen, chief executive of ECF.

“I am sure Finnish educational experience will make a significant impact [on] the further development of the Uzbek school education system,” statedAzamat Kudratov, CEO of Tashkent Education.

Boosts for educational technology

The world is opening up also for 3DBear and Curious Technologies.

3DBear revealed last month it has closed a funding round worth 1.5 million euros to accelerate its international growth and strengthened its board of directors with the appointments of Laura Koponen of Spinverse, Fredrik Lucander of Wolt and Raghunath Koduvayur of IQM Quantum Computers.

The Elias Robot app features a voice-based user interface that enables people to study languages by having conversations with human-like robots. Image: Curious Technologies

The funding, it said, will be used to pursue growth for its immersive learning application especially in the massive markets of India and the US.

The Espoo-based edtech pioneer has set itself the goal of becoming the leading provider of learning solutions based on virtual technologies while promoting learning across the world with digital and augmented reality technologies.

Curious Technologies, in turn, said it has entered into a partnership with RobotLAB, the market leader of educational robotics in the US. The partnership will focus on promoting the worldwide distribution of its artificial intelligence-based language learning solution, Elias Robot.

“Partnering with Elias Robot is exciting because it brings the learning experience to another level of engagement for students,” saidCedric Vaudel, director of sales at RobotLAB. “For more than a decade, we’ve developed innovative methodologies of teaching using robots that can bring many advantages: they’re fun, tireless and non-judgemental.”

“Now, by adding Elias to our portfolio, our program covers an even broader range of applications that teachers can use to teach foreign languages.”

Showcasing early-childhood education at home

Finnish ideas are naturally being put to good use also in Finland.

HEI Schools announced recently it will develop early-childhood education through a research and training-oriented project to be launched in a kindergarten in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki, in collaboration with the City of Helsinki and University of Helsinki in August 2021. The Helsinki-based education company will produce pedagogical content for the kindergarten, as well as train the educators to use its content and learning tools.

HEI Schools will showcase Finnish early-childhood education practices to the world in a newly built, specially designed kindergarten in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki, as of August 2021. Image: Collaboratorio

The project will also function as a showcase for domestic early-childhood education practices for global audiences.

“For us, the opportunity to simultaneously offer research-based Finnish pedagogy to the world and international content and community spirit for a Finnish kindergarten environment is really inspiring,” said Milla Kokko, CEO of HEI Schools.

“We believe that we can create something very valuable with this new model.”

The kindergarten was completed last summer in accordance with the space design guidelines developed for HEI Schools by Collaboratorio, an international architectural firm headquartered in Helsinki.

The co-operation is strategically important also for the two partners, helping the city to deliver on its promise to innovate and experiment and the university to forge new partnerships.

“Our goal is to be a pioneer in the development of early-childhood education both nationally and abroad,” stated Satu Järvenkallas, director of early-childhood education at the City of Helsinki. “This type of co-operation enables the development of early-childhood education in a new way, and [the] experiences can also be utilised more widely in other kindergartens in Helsinki.”

By: Aleksi Teivainen