This week I caught up with Kirsi Harra-Vauhkonen, Managing Director of Sanoma Pro, market leader in Finland. The Finnish market is currently undergoing both a major curriculum change and digital transformation. I asked Kirsi to explain more about what’s going on.
You’ve got an interesting background Kirsi, including positions at Nokia and Google. Tell us more.
Continuous learning is my passion, and I have been fortunate to be able to gain experience from many different positions. I have worked for example in recent years in telecommunications (Nokia), digital media (Google) and now in educational publishing. During my career, I have worked mostly in commercial and business development leadership roles. Mostly I have been leading change – be it new opportunities in the market, new ways of working or digital transformation. I am driven by working with great people and teams.
Finnish education has a world class reputation. Why is that?
Finnish pupils have scored highly in the PISA surveys for many years. This is a result of the high quality public education system in Finland. Excellent teachers are one of the most important cornerstones of the system. All teachers have a university degree, and being a teacher is a highly respected profession. The fact that high quality education is available for everyone, is very important for Finland. High quality, versatile learning materials also play an important role in helping pupils and teachers to achieve excellent learning outcomes.
What role does Sanoma Pro play in Finnish education and why are our methods popular?
Sanoma Pro is a major publisher with a very good reputation and the most extensive offering in the Finnish educational market. We publish learning materials for all grades K-12 and also for vocational education. In addition we also have the Oppi & Ilo edutainment line for the consumers as well as tutoring services by Tutorhouse.
Our learning materials are used in almost every school and class, and our digital learning environment has more than 100 000 active teacher and pupil users. Our solutions are developed through very intensive collaboration with our customers, and our authors are the best professionals in their own subjects.
Our solutions are popular because they are high quality, they fit the curriculum perfectly, they are easy to use, and they have a good mix of print and digital elements that match the ways and needs of the classroom.
And they provide excellent benefits by enabling learning impact: they help pupils to achieve good learning outcomes, they engage and motivate pupils to learn, and they save time for teachers in their professional work.
There’s curriculum reform coming this year and next. What’s happening and how are we supporting the change?
The reform is a combination of driving change in the pedagogy and in the learning goals and related learning contents. First of all the reform is encouraging strong engagement of pupils and thus changing the role of the teacher to become more like a coach for the active pupil learners. Another theme is to update the learning objectives to equip children with such skills and knowledge that better meet their needs of the future. Also the need for more theme-based learning is emphasized as well as the aim to bring digital into the everyday work at schools.
We have integrated these themes in our methods, in addition to the new learning contents, and provide a lot of supporting tips and tools to help the teachers to adapt to the new ways of teaching.
What are the most important digital initiatives we are working on?
We are very excited about our new digital learning solutions. It’s now possible to use fully digital learning materials for teaching and learning in all of the primary subjects in the new curriculum. In addition, for the teachers who prefer a hybrid solution, we are launching the gamified, curriculum-fit exercise environment Bingel. Bingel supports seamlessly the Sanoma Pro learning methods and makes exercising engaging and inspiring for pupils.
In upper secondary we have Kompassi, the digital testing and assessment tool that provides teachers an easy way to create and assess tests, saving a considerable amount of their time and providing students with the opportunity to get familiar with the digital testing. The first national digital matriculation tests in Finland will take place this Autumn.
What are you most proud about with Sanoma Pro?
I am very proud of our extremely professional and talented team. Going through a phase of digital transformation in the market simultaneously with the very intensive curriculum change is not an easy task, but the team has shown great effort and we have been able to bring all the print and digital products to the market, while also innovating new concepts.
Our new learning solutions bring a lot of new opportunities and support for the teachers to renew their way of teaching, and to engage and inspire the pupils. I am very proud of this achievement, and having delivered this as a team!
Thanks for talking us through this Kirsi. These are exciting times in Finnish education and it’s great to hear more about our commitment to working together with our customers in bringing new innovations to the market. Good luck to all our people in Finland!