“Great you are from Finland, we just needed someone to talk about education.”
I was recently in London taking part in a refugee conference. Once again these were the welcoming words.
WHEREVER I GO, I find myself answering questions concerning Finnish policies on education. The global interest for Finnish education remains, regardless of the problems and issues we have currently in our domestic education policies. Other countries expect that in Finland educational matters are always considered with great care and on research-basis.
Therefore, I think we should currently focus on education both globally and locally.
Locally, we must focus and invest in education and research in the coming years. We need to reform our secondary education and we must create new models for adult education in the future of work context. Overall, we should return to the radical path Finland chose decades ago when deciding to educate the entire population and aim to be the most innovative society through substantial research and focus on development.
Globally, we should attempt to have more of an impact on education-related matters as there is existing interest for the views and contributions of Finland.
The interest in Finnish education is based on the analysis done in many growing cities and countries across the globe. Youthful population, long-lasting economic growth and natural resources - these are typically the unifying factors for these cities and countries. When such countries and their leaders start to look for strategies to maintain the growth rates they often find Finland as an example of a poor country that in a relatively short period of time managed to become a wealthy modern state. The story of Finland investing in education was enhanced by its success with PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment). PISA, however, is not the only or even the fundamental reason behind the interest in the Finnish model.
Given the interest in Finnish education, we should assume a more strategic approach to enhance our global impact.
First, we should influence the indicators and measurements used when the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and other international institutions analyse and compare education. In Finland, we often criticise how, for example, the aforementioned PISA test actually measures irrelevant things. Rather than criticise we should aim to influence the indicators.
Second, we should place education high on our development aid agenda and other international agendas. We should train all our internationally active experts working in embassies and for institutions such as the UN, EU, World Bank and the like. They should all have the same education agendas based on the same analysis of the basic characteristics of Finnish education. The themes should include trust, the role of teachers, child-centred learning, socio-emotional skills and holistic approaches.
First steps towards a stronger global influence on education have recently been taken. The Ministry of Education has sent several experts to work in Finnish embassies. Additionally, the Finnish Board of Education, the office that works under the Ministry of Education, has established the Education Finland department. Recently they have also released a press release stating that Finland should aim to have a more active role in solving the global learning crisis.
This development should continue. Next I would like to see a Finnish Education Experience Centre in Helsinki, perhaps combined with the new museum of design and architecture.
Dr Pilvi Torsti is an MP with 20 years of experience in education in Finland and globally. She is also a member of the Education and Future Committees and founder of UWC Mostar and HEI Schools.