The Chinese government has an ambitious goal. It wants to create 300 million new winter sports enthusiasts by the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. For Finns – who consider skiing, skating and general frolicking in the snow as national pastimes – this has opened the door to a new kind of educational export. Lohja-based Kisakallio Sports Institute has been one of the first to seize this opportunity.
“We have over 70 years’ experience in sports education and teaching sports skills,” says Harri Hollo, Kisakallio’s marketing director. “Now we want to teach Olympic winter sports to the Chinese and help them to understand the possibilities in combining education with sports.”
Kisakallio has hit the ground running. The sports institute is already training Chinese coaches in 15 Olympic winter sports, helping students to get on skis and skates as part of its Sport to Campus concept and designing China’s first Finnish-style sports institute for the eastern city of Weifang. Kisakallio has also developed a PopUp School concept to offer Chinese children the opportunity to study like Finns.
“We built the PopUp School curriculum based on the Finnish phenomenon-based learning model and the belief that physical activity is an important part of learning,” Hollo explains. “We believe a physically active child is more likely to be active in their education.”
Skating on removable ice
International projects are not new for Kisakallio. The sports institute offers facilities, training and upper secondary education in various sports and attracts professional and amateur sports enthusiasts from over 50 countries annually. But with China, Kisakallio has taken these operations to a whole new level.
It began in spring 2017, when the institute launched its first joint-venture with Chinese investors called Kisakallio China. It is tasked with promoting Kisakallio’s educational concepts in China. The most successful to date has been the camp-style PopUp School, which last summer resulted in 15 groups of 12-to-18-year-olds coming to Finland to study with Finnish teachers and students.
“The feedback has been very positive. When Chinese children come to a Finnish school, they are free to study and think differently,” says Hollo. “We want to bring different cultures together and create new learning opportunities for children.”
Learning is also at the core of Kisakallio’s Sport to Campus concept. This is a full winter sports education package for students, teachers and coaches covering equipment, rules, techniques and sports culture. Kisakallio has even developed removable ice to create temporary ice rinks wherever they are needed.
“There aren’t enough winter sports facilities in China yet, so these innovations are needed,” Hollo explains.
Winter sports meet reality TV
2019 will be an even busier year for Kisakallio China. It marks the first winter sports co-operation year between China and Finland with over 100 events being held in the two countries. Kisakallio will participate in many of them as part of the state-sponsored Finnish Winter Sports Cluster, organised by Business Finland.
Kisakallio is also planning to expand its PopUp School concept and bring Finnish teachers and students to work with their local counterparts in China. There is even talk about a Chinese winter sports reality TV show, which is scheduled to start shooting in Finland in January.
Hollo says Kisakallio is happy with its start in China and believes the institute has developed a model for further international success.
“[In China] we are a startup company and we still have a lot to learn about the culture and processes,” he emphasises. “But we are now building our operational models and, eventually, we want to take these concepts around the world.”