Finnish Independence Day at the United Arab Emirates + some additional thoughts

6.12. I had the pleasure to attend the Finnish Independence Day reception in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

I was happy to hear how the Ambassador also addressed Finnish education in his speech and what publicity it has got for example in the Newsweek and other media.

As I’m now working with the Finnish education sector, it has clearly had a boost of confidence because of this attention, which in my eyes is a good thing. Things like Future Learning Finland programmes has been established and universities and other institutions are building many kinds of joint initiatives.

But there are also challenges with this “Finnish education for all”. Not necessarily challenges that might arise from different cultures in other countries, but between the universal idea about what is education and learning about, how you assess it and manage it, which differs from organization to another.

It is a different thing to know something, to understand something and to be able to do something. From blog post to post and conference to another I hear people stating that education should change and we need more and more 21st Century Skill development and methods that support this, instead of merely learning the substance.

But how is this going on, are we getting there? Where is there, and who decides?

Many authors and researchers state that when introducing new ideas or processes into an organization, the need for change management is inevitable. This is normal, I think, but many times overlooked. In the same way education still seems to be a matter of “I feel like it”, examples like:

  • “I feel that this is the best way of learning”
  • “This theory works the best” or
  • “I don’t need no theories!”

Can there ever be consensus about learning, in any level? Can something that worked in the learning process in one context, be recreated in another situation, time and place? How possible is it and should even be?

In the ever increasing global environment things like

  • organizational culture (i.e. educational institution’s culture)
  • assessment culture
  • used technology (in many levels)
  • history of the faculty
  • faculty job descriptions
  • faculty relationships
  • individual perceptions of what is learning
  • community perceptions of what people should learn
  • instructor perception of what should be learned
  • instructor perception of what is effective learning (based or not based on research, which is or is not valid)
  • the specific time when the learning process takes place in all of those people’s lives who can affect the learning process (e.g. very important thing if you think about the more social ways of learning)
  • [put your own here]

have an effect in the learning situation. This builds to be a mountain of variables which, in a certain time and place, can alter the outcome of even the brightest learning methods and the educational technology.

An idea I’d like to spread when “exporting” Finnish (or any other) education in the world: Education, whatever that might be, isn’t merely a block of something that can be taken from one of the contexts it has been applied and thrown to some other place without iterating it with someone who is inside the new context. The questions of course is, how much tweaking changes the thing to something else?

There’s a couple of interesting articles worth reading and reflecting in The Guardian about Finnish education (one should also read the comments section in these):

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/nov/21/finland-education-immigrant-children

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/nov/09/finland-values-teaching

One can reflect what the comments tell about culture, attitudes and why education can succeed and can not.

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