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Finland continues to produce educational ideas

Education services from Finnish companies have been gaining recognition around the world.

Global Education Park / Joensuu

Finnish educators are putting to use new approaches and technologies to improve learning outcomes around the world.

The first batch of startups graduated from EdTech Incubator Helsinki, the first education technology-focused incubator programme in Finland, on 31 March.

The graduation gala offered the nine participating startups an opportunity to showcase their education technology innovations in front of a live domestic audience of investors and stakeholders, as well as an international audience that tuned in for the live stream.

Becky Luoma, founder of Language Clubhouse, did not conceal her excitement before the gala: “I’m feeling spring fever, and I’m looking forward to the gala event – what a spectacular opportunity for our startup! I expect to get some valuable insights and feedback from investors and different stakeholders.”

“A straightforward and clear strategy for the future, that’s what we’re aiming to possess after the completion of the incubator programme. The goal for the company is to continue its growth.”

Alongside Language Clubhouse, Alfons Education, Beesh, Big Ear Games, Loru Games, MusicUs, Onni Education, Oppi AI and XR Tutor participated in the maiden round of the free 18-week programme.

Interested startups can apply to the programme during an application window that is open twice a year. The City of Helsinki has outlined that 50 education technology companies should have completed the programme by the end of next year.

The City of Helsinki has launched the first education technology-focused incubator programme in Finland, EdTech Incubator Helsinki. Image: Maija Astikainen / City of Helsinki

Nationally, the hope is that at least some of the participants will flourish into significant export companies. The Finnish Government has adopted a national roadmap for education exports that leverages the country’s stellar reputation among educators with a view to raising the value of exports to one billion euros by the end of the decade.

The value of education exports stood at 498 million euros in 2020, an increase of 111 million from the previous year.

The roadmap has four thematic focal points: developing education technology, digital education services and learning environments; developing pedagogics in early-childhood education; developing pedagogics and practices in basic education; and developing vocational education.

“Finnish education services are still a relatively young export sector, but the potential is significant,” Jouni Kangasniemi, programme manager at Education Finland, said in May 2021.

Partnerships in Brazil, Bermuda and Malaysia

New Nordic Schools in March announced it has struck a partnership with Winsford Global School in Goiânia, Brazil.

The Brazilian school, it said, will provide education that combines Finnish educational practices with the curriculums of Brazil and England. The school is scheduled to open its doors in the autumn with a vision to empower learners to build a sustainable future and have an impact on not only their own future, but also the community and wider world.

Finnish practices are manifested in the school particularly in a desire to provide a personalised learning path for all learners, to deliver purposeful lessons that link subject knowledge to real-life situations and to develop soft skills needed in life.

“This unique school with dual language and curriculum will set a new benchmark for schools in Brazil with a focus on purposeful learning and skills which will enable students to shape their own future,” declared Stephen Cox, chief education officer at New Nordic Schools.

Luciana Pinheiro, headmaster of Winsford Global School, revealed that the school is excited to introduce an exclusive and differentiated approach to education to Brazil.

“We believe that today’s schools can be vastly improved for the modern world and we are happily doing our share,” she said.

Finland’s Mightifier and New Nordic Schools have announced partnerships that seek to inspire learning in places as far-off as Bermuda and Malaysia. Image: Pixabay / Pexels

Schools in Bermuda and Malaysia have turned to another Finnish educator, Mightifier.

In February, the Helsinki-based developer of socio-emotional learning programmes reported that it has joined forces with ACE EdVenture Education Group in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The objective of the partnership is to leverage data and insights to create a people-focused school culture where both pupils and staff can flourish.

Mightifier’s socio-emotional learning programme will be used on a weekly basis at the school.

The education company will also provide socio-emotional learning training to the entire school staff to encourage everyone in the school community to recognise each other’s character strengths, give fact-based positive feedback and hone relationship skills.

“Students see their teachers and school staff as role models,” noted Mervi Pänkäläinen, chief executive of Mightifier. “By taking a school-wide approach and focusing on creating a people-focused culture where everyone is treated with respect and appreciation, it gives a powerful message to students.”

Anne Tham, chief executive of ACE EdVenture, viewed that the partnership is indicative of emphasis the company has placed on student emotional wellbeing over the past quarter of a century.

“With Mightifier’s programme, we’ll be able to assess and tangibly monitor their progress and take their growth even further. We are very excited to see this evolve and witness even more children bloom as unique, socio-emotionally intelligent individuals,” she envisioned.

Mightifier reported a month earlier that it has entered into a similar partnership with Somersfield Academy in Bermuda.

Socio-emotional learning, it highlighted, has been shown to positively impact students’ emotional wellbeing and, with students and teachers alike exhausted after two years of pandemic-related uncertainty, “there has never been a more compelling time to prioritise their coping skills and wellbeing”.

Supporting lifelong learning, use of AI

Funzi’s mission is to bring learning to 90 per cent of the population by using the power of mobile. Image: Funzi

Funzi, an Espoo-based operator of an accessible learning ecosystem, revealed in March that it has secured three million euros in funding for its effort to support lifelong learning by helping educational institutions to expand and modernise their learning mix with digital and modern learning.

The funding thereby also enables the startup to speed up its growth into new markets.

“Funzi’s recent service launches and projects have validated three things about the market,” toldAape Pohjavirta, president of Funzi. “First, our partnership approach can give us very rapid access to markets. Second, both mobile operators and education systems are showing significant interest in mobile learning services. Finally, and most importantly, our service is loved by our users, and they actually learn with it.”

Funzi has reached more than nine million learners since its launch in 2019. The ecosystem offers courses that have been designed to be as widely accessible as possible; they can be accessed with a browser on any device and without substantial data requirements.

Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence (FCAI) and the Finnish Indian Consortia for Research and Education (FICORE) in February said they are organising a course designed to offer tools to leverage the benefits of artificial intelligence in real-life settings.

Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence (FCAI) and the Finnish Indian Consortia for Research and Education have launched a course designed to facilitate the utilisation of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Image: Mart Production / Pexels

The objectives of the project are, on the one hand, to identify and solve the most pressing challenges associated with artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning, and, on the other, to spread best practices in the field and impart outside-the-box thinking and problem-solving skills that apply to real-life settings to both students and industry practitioners.

The organisers argued that the vast potential of the new technologies is typically not being realised fully due to certain technical, operational and resource-related challenges.

It is necessary, for example, to frame the right questions and formulate concrete problems for artificial intelligence, to bridge the discrepancy between models founded on optimistic assumptions about the quality and quantity of data and real-life challenges faced by companies, and to tackle the shortage of artificial intelligence experts.

The course instructor is Vikas Garg, assistant professor at Aalto University and FCAI.

Originally published in April 2022.

By: Aleksi Teivainen