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Finnish pedagogy resonates around the world

Many Finnish education specialists believe in encouraging children to explore their surroundings and having fun while learning.

Riku Isohella

Arkki, HEI Schools, New Nordic School and Kide Science have put their expertise to use in Croatia, Malaysia, India and Mexico, respectively.

Finnish education expertise has continued to draw attention from school systems worldwide, as they strive for better, more equitable and sustainable learning outcomes in what could be a new era of education brought on by the tide of digitalisation that swept across the sector during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kide Science in June reported it will implement its hands-on story-based teaching model for three-to-eight-year-olds at San Jorge School in Mexico in August. Teachers at the English-language school trialled the model for a month before deciding to expand its use, having discovered that it motivated children to wield their imagination to solve problems.

Jorge Almanza, director of San Jorge School, described the process of learning with the model as “beautiful and transparent”.

“We were looking for a modern, science skill-based learning programme for children to investigate real-life situations. When we found out that it was a science programme from Finland, we literally said: ‘This is the perfect fit for our institution’.”

Kide Science developed the model based on extensive research to foster scientific thinking in children through engaging hands-on experiments rooted in real-world problems.

The company supports teachers in implementing the model with story-based lesson plans and online training in play-based pedagogy in order to ensure they can focus on what matters most: working with children on exciting experiments in the classroom – be it digital, physical or a hybrid of the two.

Sari Hurme-Mehtälä of Kide Science says it is important to eliminate gender bias from the narrative surrounding science to not quell the innate interest of girls in science. Image: Monstera / Pexels

Fostering the development of scientific skills specifically in girls is crucial for gender equality, Sari Hurme-Mehtälä, co-founder of Kide Science, stressed to SuperCharger Ventures in June.

“Identity starts development during the early years: children construct the idea of themselves by identifying what they enjoy, what they are interested in, what they are good at. It’s partly hidden cultural praxis that we tend to offer boys more opportunities to engage in science and technology activities than girls. This is not due to children’s choice, but how adults steer children’s ideas of what they should be interested in,” she stated.

“It is impossible to get interested in something you have never had the opportunity to try!”

Developing early education in Malaysia

Helsinki-based HEI Schools announced at the start of last month it has entered into an agreement to co-operate on developing the early-childhood teacher programme of SEGi University and Colleges in Malaysia.

The company has incorporated the contents of its teacher certificate programme into the two-and-a-half-year diploma programme on three campuses in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Subang Jaya. The certificate programme comprises 10 modules that cover the principles of progressive early-childhood pedagogy in Finland, ranging from special-needs teaching to inclusion and play-based learning.

It was developed by experienced Finnish teachers and education experts, including Lasse Lipponen, professor at the University of Helsinki.

SEGi University and Colleges has long championed excellence and professionalism in early-childhood education in Malaysia. It was appointed to spearhead a national project to improve the quality of pre-school teacher education by the Malaysian Government in 2011.

Every moment is a chance to learn something new, believes HEI Schools. Image: Kim Öhrling

“We see this collaboration as part of our ongoing efforts to strive for educational excellence,” said Stella Lau, CEO of SEGi Group of Colleges.

“With the HEI programme embedded nicely within our diploma, we are confident that our students will be immersed in a stimulating and powerful learning experience that impresses upon them the lifelong impact that they will have on young children. They will graduate with the confidence and skill sets that discerning employers seek, both within and beyond Malaysia,” she envisioned.

HEI Schools has announced plans to open 12 new schools around the world by January 2022.

Focus on creativity, sustainability

Arkki International revealed it has introduced its cross-disciplinary education programme in Croatia. The Helsinki-domiciled startup began operations in its ninth country last month by holding workshops on urban planning while gearing up to launch longer-term courses and workshops in a school in Šibenik and a classroom in Split in September.

Its cross-disciplinary programme utilises architecture and design to equip children with essential modern-day skills such as creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking.

“Architecture and design education cultivates alternative thinking and complex problem-solving capabilities, which are instrumental for every discipline and occupation in the modern world,” statedMia Triva, CEO of Arkki in Šibenik and Split.

Arkki also announced its plan to launch #ArkkiNEB, a participation project organised under New European Bauhaus, in Croatia, Turkey and Spain. Supported by the Finnish Ministry of Education, the project has been implemented with 19 groups of nine teachers for 250 children in Finland, Greece and the Czech Republic.

Arkki has developed an education programme that utilises architecture and design to support the development of critical modern-day skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. Image: Vincent Bartoli

New Nordic School in mid-June stated that it has opened the first Finnish kindergarten-to-12th-grade school, Nordic High International School (NHIS), in Central India in partnership with Sri Aurobindo Group.

“Providing quality education is not a short-term goal, it is continuous and ever evolving,” noted Kinshuk Trivedi, vice president of Sri Aurobindo Group.

“We realised that the world’s best education system still hasn’t reached the schools in Central India. Finland’s education is on the same lines as the new education policy of India, which makes us ready for the future. We are extremely happy and confident to offer the best and purposeful education in Indore as we partner with New Nordic School.”

NHIS utilises the Finnish curriculum and proven pedagogical practices from around the world to provide personalised, purposeful and locally relevant education. The pupils will develop not only the skills and mindset they need in the increasingly competitive world, but also compassion for the surrounding world during the interdisciplinary lessons built around the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“It is high time that we move beyond the mechanical way of teaching, and every child is considered unique and is given opportunities to explore according to his capabilities, interests and imaginations,” declared Chani Trivedi, director of NHIS.

“Our school is built upon the belief to provide the best education to children, where each child will be empowered, creative and compassionate. We want to create an ecosystem where every child is allowed to make mistakes and positively learn from them.”

New Nordic School is to continue expanding its presence in India, with school openings planned for next year in Bangalore, Gurgaon and Hyderabad.

An edtech solution awarded

Finnish educators have used their knowhow also to create technological solutions that support learning and address contemporary challenges in education. One example is Elias Robot, a language-learning solution that enables users to hone their verbal skills by conversing with a friendly robot.

In May, the solution was awarded as one of the best remote-learning solutions in IMPACT EdTech, an accelerator programme funded by the European Commission. The six-month programme served as a platform for startups, mentors and schools to collaborate on improving technological solutions in education during and after the pandemic.

The best-in-class award was handed to the three solutions that showed the greatest promise for tackling the challenges the global crisis has thrown at teachers and students.

IMPACT EdTech viewed on its website that the awarded startups not only improved the teaching and learning experience in many European schools, but will “undoubtedly” also contribute to shaping the future of education.

Elias Robot was piloted in three schools during the programme, in Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Curious Technologies, the startup behind the solution, estimated that the recognition will enable it to explore further collaboration opportunities with partners and investors in Europe.

“Participating in the IMPACT EdTech programme was a great opportunity for us to fast track our development with the help of a great team of teachers and students! We could not be happier to have achieved such great results, now looking into the future we aim to bring our new remote learning solution available globally,” saidJohanna Hemminki, CEO of Curious Technologies.

By: Aleksi Teivainen