The Wait Is Over. Finland’s Education System Travels.
Thanks to new technology, the successes of the Finnish education system can finally be implemented worldwide.
Ever since Finland ranked at the top of the international education comparison PISA in 2000, there has been a raging global debate on whether the winning factors can be implemented beyond Finland.
First, to the great disappointment of education policy makers everywhere, it seemed that much of Finland’s success was attributed to societal forces and culture – hard if not impossible to replicate elsewhere.
Yet, intuitively, some of it seemed to be transportable.
There is the special pacing – short days and long recesses between classes – of the Finnish education that anyone could take on. There is the use of play and games instead of rigor and the age-appropriate methods that could in theory travel. It looked like, at the end of the day, the big missing piece wasn’t the surrounding environment but the lack of tools, methods and teachers that could change the way the world educates.
Not any longer!
Education technology through which the Finnish education system is being transmitted into “tools” and “teachers” with all the flavors of lean and student-centric learning is rapidly making Finland’s winning formula available to the global community.
That was the firm outcome of an afternoon-long seminar held in New York City on September 29. Policy makers, companies, investors and local government gathered to hear from and discuss with a distinguished panel of Finnish experts. The interest was great. Long and intense discussions erupted throughout the afternoon.
The discussion was kicked off by a videoed visit by Finnish school kids prepared by McCann’s Helsinki office, which is specialized in supporting the up-and-coming growth companies in the Nordics. In their perfect English and confident demeanor, the kids unintentionally rubbed in the fact that Finland spends USD 6,700 per year per student while the United States spends USD 11,000. Yet, on the results charts, the two countries end up ways apart in every category.
A sense of urgency, which became the theme of the day: education technology may also be the only realistic way to overcome the political gridlock in the United States and ensure better and more universal learning results.
The keynote was delivered by André Noël Chaker, a Canadian author and award-winning speaker, who has cracked the code of Finnish culture and acts as its non-threatening interpreter to North American audiences.
Anu Partanen, author of The Nordic Theory of Everything, walked us through the rationale of the special features of Finland’s education system. She made the point that education is not, of course, an outlier but rather the outcome of other progressive policies in equality, women’s rights and strategic burden-sharing between the public and private sectors spanning well over a hundred years. It is where the long tradition of Finnish education excellence arises from.
Fresh from an extended stay in China, former Mighty Eagle Peter Vesterbacka, who gave the world the Angry Birds and has now committed his life to championing childhood education through technological innovation, gave a soaring update on how education technology and best practices are already reshaping nations around the world.
Saku Tuominen, a Finnish entrepreneur and businessman, who throughout his career has time and again managed to tap into the cutting edge, was next. At the moment his initiative HundrED is in charge of a global education platform spotting, sparring, connecting, promoting and growing educational initiatives and technologies. A terrific vantage point. The project is connected with Finland’s 100th year of independence, which will start on December 6, 2017. Tuominen confirmed the positive disruption in education and the great results it is starting to reap.
The final speaker of the day is a teacher and entrepreneur herself. Maarit Rossi was a pioneer in revamping and gamifying the teaching of mathematics and has since gained world prominence as a pedagogue. With her digital math platform Paths to Math, the retired school master was a finalist of the Global Teacher Prize in 2016 and showed us how internal motivation is the only way to truly learn. Let them have fun!
The buzz and momentum – Amcham’s Nordic and Baltic EdTech companies pitched to a large group of investors and fellow businesspeople in New York City earlier in the week – predict that this is just the beginning. We will definitely follow up.
It is a distinct pleasure to thank our amazing partners in organizing this multifaceted week of encounters and brainpower.
Special thanks to Toni, Annemarie and Marko at the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce in New York, the Pikkuyrittäjät Team and the NYU Future Labs for hosting us.
A keen executer of connectedness, Turkish Airlines helped us get around the globe. A shout-out to Ahmet Dalgul, country manager of the company in Finland and the father of two wonderful baby girls.
One of the greatest pleasures of working in the dynamic environment of global business is the opportunity to work with the best in their fields. McCann Helsinki is just that! Thank you, Petteri and Jouni for your vision and drive.
Pictures from the event can be found on Amcham’s Flickr account.