Finnish edtech sector turns pandemic challenges into opportunities
Finnish edtech companies have discovered new opportunities for co-operation and development amidst an increased demand for digital learning solutions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Finland has a reputation for being a superpower in both technology and education. Hence, it comes as no surprise that the local educational technology (edtech) industry keeps on generating internationally sought-after solutions to make knowledge accessible to everyone and to preserve progressing societies. The latter, nowadays, is impossible without enhancing digital competences and learning future skills.
HolonIQ, a leading source of global education market intelligence, recently selected 14 Finnish companies on its list of the 50 most innovative edtech companies in the Baltics and Nordics. No other country in the region had as extensive a presence on the list as Finland.
Some of the listed companies contributed their expertise and solutions to Joy of Learning, a remote-learning programme trialled with children in the UAE in August. Coordinated by Education House Finland, the programme assessed the feasibility of cross-border remote learning while showcasing a variety of digital learning solutions from Finland.
“The overwhelmingly positive feedback we got only strengthened what we already know about the excellence of Finnish education solutions and the level of learner engagement and motivation they embed,” said Katia Al-Kaisi, the CEO of Education House Finland.
A transatlantic impact
Members of the Finnish edtech sector have also responded to a request for assistance from the New York City Mayor’s Office, making a wide range of remote-learning solutions available for free for a period of up to 12 months to bring relief to teachers and students hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.
Helsinki-based 3DBear went a step further by organising a one-on-one coaching programme for teachers to examine the challenges of remote learning from a logistical, pedagogical and technical viewpoint.
The seats in the months-long programme filled quickly with teachers from several parts of New York City.
In 2020–2021, Finland is planning to educate one per cent of European Union citizens in the basics of artificial intelligence with the Elements of AI, a unique online course designed by the University of Helsinki and Finnish tech company Reaktor and eventually made available in all official EU languages.
The free course saw its European launch in the spring, when Finland and the rest of the world were learning new lessons from the unexpected coronavirus outbreak. The subsequent lockdown measures, including the mass closures of schools, triggered large-scale efforts to quickly introduce alternative ways of schooling. Utilising technology in support of education became a priority.
Tackling the crisis together
Seeing the pandemic disrupting education on an unprecedented scale, Finnish edtech companies joined their expertise to respond to the challenges. The Koulu.me website was launched in March, showcasing numerous domestic industry players ready to reach out a helping hand to educators and provide them with free access to engaging educational content.
“Exceptional times call for exceptional measures,” said Jouni Kangasniemi, programme director of Education Finland. “I am happy to see that Finnish edtech solutions and content are now available for continuing and meaningful learning throughout Finland and abroad.”
Finnish edtech solutions soon became a valuable part of Teach Millions, a geographically broader initiative supporting teachers worldwide with an array of free e-learning tools developed in the Nordic-Baltic region and available in languages including English, French, German, Modern Arabic, Russian and Spanish.
In April, another exciting example of collaborative work across countries and continents was given by Funzi, a Finnish mobile learning service and participant in both the Koulu.me and Teach Millions platforms. Funzi’s online course, COVID-19: Adapt and thrive, was launched in South Africa as part of the country’s national coronavirus response initiative. Moreover, the United Nations in South Africa expressed its intent to scale the course to all African nations.
Creative education provider Arkki was also swift to come up with an inspiring free digital offering, Arkki@home, which allows children in all parts of the world to have fun and develop their creativity with hands-on architecture and design projects while confined at home. The company later reported an outpouring of positive feedback from as far as Japan, China, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Thailand and Qatar.
New opportunities arise
The shared objectives of solving the global learning crisis and ensuring a sustainable future for the edtech sector beyond the pandemic also resulted in new partnerships between Finnish edtech providers and like-minded education enthusiasts around the globe.
In mid-June, School Day announced a strategic partnership with WholeSchools, an educational consulting group based in Mexico City, to introduce its internationally recognised student wellbeing analytics solution to schools across Mexico and Latin America.
Meanwhile, New Nordic School entered into a partnership with Global Services in Education to bring its AI-powered K-12 education system for supporting teachers to schools across Southeast Asia. The process of expanding in the region will surely be facilitated by the recently raised funds of 2.5 million euros.
In early June, Espoo-based children’s language learning specialist Playvation was boosted by a significant capital injection. The creator of Moomin Language School raised 700 000 euros in a seed funding round led by Sparkmind.vc to accelerate its international growth in key Asian and European markets.
For early science education company Kide Science, the first few months of the challenging year brought many promising opportunities, too. In April, the company launched its new online family product for engaging hands-on experiments in China in co-operation with a local partner.
In May and June, Kide Science continued expanding its global network by landing deals with Starlight Education Group in Taiwan and InNordics in Hong Kong, as well as a kindergarten and school chain in Thailand. All the agreements will see the company’s playful early science education model unleash children’s imagination and spark their scientific curiosity far beyond Finland.
With the pandemic providing such a massive exposure to Finnish edtech expertise, the soil has been worked for the digital transition in the educational sector, experts believe.
Text: Zhanna Koiviola
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