Category Archives: Finland

The Chinese are coming to a school near you

 

Last week we visited China with a small team to learn more about their education system. The timing was good with today’s announcement of the results of the latest PISA survey,  with the Chinese regions once again performing very well.

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Amongst others we visited a variety of successful private and state-owned enterprises as well as a government department of education and – best of all – a primary school. It was an inspiring experience and we were greeted warmly and had open discussions everywhere we went.

The primary school felt very similar to those in our home countries, although the class sizes were twice as big at 50 rather than 25 students.  We sometimes have the impression of Chinese children doing heavy duty rote learning, but I was struck by the emphasis on meaning, aspiration and happiness in the school we visited.  Teachers were experimenting with project-based learning and digital, not dissimilar to recent innovations in Finland.

The companies we visited were all proud to present what they were working on, very open to answer questions and to curious to learn about us too.  Finnish education was well respected.  The tech companies looked and felt very similar to those in Silicon Valley but somehow seemed even more keenly commercial.

The government clearly has a big voice in education, with central government setting overall policy through the five year plan and the local authority we visited was actively working to understand and improve school performance across the region, driven by quite a rich set of data.

It made me wonder:

“is China going to lead the next wave of breakthrough innovations in education and learning?”

The scale of the market, commitment of the key players and innovative potential of the ecosystem  create a compelling case.

Scale

With a population of over 1.3 bn inhabitants and about 200 m students in K-12 education this is a huge market.  Each year about 17 m new students join the system, with this number likely to get boosted by up to 6 m each year due to the recent move to a “two-child” policy.

Commitment

The government is highly committed to education and the 13th 5-year plan (2016-2020) focuses on improving quality and access, with a key role for digital. Significant new resourcing is being dedicated to the transformation. At the same time, private spending on education is huge, estimated to be of the order of 1/3 of average household disposable income, driven by the “six adults – one child” phenomenon resulting from the earlier “one child” policy. The commitment to education in China seems unrivalled on the global stage.

Innovative potential

The companies and organisations we met had high quality management and development capabilities at least comparable with what we have seen in the West. There seems to be a “learning culture”, with people keen to try new things and work hard at it. There is everything to win. The transformation need is clearly articulated and well-funded.  Authorities and companies are building large networks of users and rich databases.  Surely the insights that will come from this ecosystem about learning on all levels (individual, class, school, region, nation) will power innovation in education and learning?

China: coming to a school near you

All-in-all I think it’s highly likely that China will become a powerhouse of innovation in education in the coming years – and that our education systems will also benefit from Chinese innovations in education.  Also, given the growing global importance of China, how long will it be before Mandarin is a common second language in our curricula?  One way or another, the Chinese are coming to a school near you pretty soon.

Education reform in Finland

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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!

 

Exciting times

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 marketGood luck to all our people in Finland!

Working together to develop scalable technology at Sanoma Learning

One of the key trajectories in our strategy is using technology to help pupils and teachers. We believe technology is an enabler of what we call learning impact: engaging pupils, improving learning outcomes and supporting the workflow of the teacher. Developing and deploying the right technology in the right way is therefore critical to our mission.

Key parts of our technology are developed together and scaled across our units. This is not easy but brings benefits in terms of speed, quality, cost, skills and shared learning.

This week I caught up with new recruit Heikki Rusama, in the team of our Chief Business Technology Officer Arnoud Klerkx, who recently moved from Rovio in Finland to Sanoma Learning’s co-development team in The Netherlands, to learn more about this work.

Tell us about your background and why you joined Sanoma Learning

I’ve been interested in learning since my teenage years and studied educational science to originally prepare for a role in academia. I’m keen to work in a role that will allow me to combine my passion for education with technology.

I found such a role when previously working at Rovio Learning, the entertainment company behind the Angry Birds. However I joined Sanoma for two reasons: to me it is important that learning is the company’s core business and secondly I see potential for further international growth in learning. Therefore, Sanoma Learning feels like a perfect fit for me.

What’s your role at Sanoma Learning?

My role as one of the Business Technology Consultants is to help business units to grow in digital learning by providing building blocks for the current and the future applications. This I do by leading some co-development initiatives like Edubase (learning engine), Identity & Access Management, and later this year Learning Analytics.

How does this bring value to our ways of working?

One of the many strengths of this company is the deep understanding of education including the local differences. Through our co-development program we identify and build common, scalable technology.  This helps us to develop higher quality solutions, faster and at lower cost and also to share learnings across our footprint which includes some of the World’s best education systems. If we are able to take co-development to the next level, we are going to create more Bingels in the future.

What are your first impressions of working with us?

I really enjoy my work. Like today, when I had meetings with Business Technology teams from Van In (Belgium) and Sanoma Utbildning (Sweden). Not only are they inspiring people to work with, I really admire the drive and passion they have for learning and technology. With teams like these, the co-development agenda will succeed.

Where do you think we stand on the digital transformation?

The future of our business seems bright yet increasingly complex. I am confident that we are tackling the right questions. We’re clearly a frontrunner on the digital transformation, which is going to be a long journey. Our deep understanding of learning combined with our technology capabilities make us strong. Further building on our co-development abilities will prepare us better for the future, by enabling us to make better products faster.

Thanks for the feedback Heikki. I believe enabling our learning methods with technology to help our customers is the way forward.  The co-development agenda is a great way for us to scale investments, skills and learnings as we progress.

P.S. Leicester City has a five point lead at the top of the Premier League.  Go Foxes!

The Global Search for Education: Just Imagine

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“There’s a real chance that more or less all schoolchildren everywhere will have access to mobile devices by 2050 and will be allowed to use those devices for learning. Imagine the profound impact on our people and planet when that generation gets access to mobile learning across the globe.” — John Martin

Check out my interview with leading education blogger and author C.M. Rubin, published in the Huffington Post earlier this week.  I’ve re-posted it below:

Preparing our students for a new world of Innovation is a theme we cover consistently in The Global Search for Education series. We invited John Martin, CEO of Sanoma Learning, to share his vision for learning in the future.

Sanoma Learning has major markets in Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden, where the company is fast replacing the traditional textbook model by developing innovative, captivating media in multiple platforms that can be individualized to meet the demands of specific educational systems. Sanoma has been dedicated to education since 1889, when it established the newspaper Päivälehti in Finland. Today it is carrying this commitment in leaping bounds into the future. Martin believes that while the teacher remains “the killer app,” edtech can personalize learning pathways for pupils and engage them in new ways, helping to develop the talents of each child. In my interview with John that follows, he shares his broad insights into how we can work towards environmental sustainability, global inclusivity, and intelligent technological adaptation in future classrooms.

How will the school of the future be more environmentally conscious?

I imagine myself as a biology teacher in a school where we have introduced “phenomenon-based learning”, inspired by the world renowned Finnish education system. I’m coaching a course on climate change and teams in my class are working out how to reduce the carbon footprint of the school. I’m sure they will find new ideas and expect this way of learning will have a profound effect on their behaviour too. An earlier class encouraged us to embrace the Internet of Things in helping to limit our environmental impact. Through this network of “connected things” at school, we have reduced our use of energy, water and food, and optimized the travelling. By changing our behaviour and embracing technology we are making a difference.

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“By automating workflows and giving insights, technology will super-charge the teacher as the killer app in education. As the digital infrastructure of schools matures, usability will improve too.” — John Martin

How will the school of the future be more globally inclusive?

I expect that changes in demography, improved access to mobile technology and new norms in the classroom will open up the world of learning. Today, access to mobile learning is limited in three dimensions: to children in richer communities, in rich countries, and in schools where digital learning is encouraged. Consider the world in 2050 where the number of under 15 year olds will be roughly as follows: 70 million in the USA, 90 million in South America, 110 million in Europe, 200 million in China, 300 million in India and 700 million in Sub-Saharan Africa. There’s a real chance that more or less all schoolchildren everywhere will have access to mobile devices by 2050 and will be allowed to use those devices for learning. Imagine the profound impact on our people and planet when that generation gets access to mobile learning across the globe. Is there a more powerful instrument for reducing poverty and inequality, and laying the basis for sustained economic growth and sound governance than this?

How will technology be integrated into the curriculum and how will the school handle the integration of continual advancements in technology?

Technology will be seamlessly integrated into the curriculum and will enable ever improving learning impact. Through personalization, technology will help each individual pupil to achieve their best learning potential. And by automating workflows and giving insights, technology will super-charge the teacher as the killer app in education. As the digital infrastructure of schools matures, usability will improve too. Teachers will be better skilled and more confident than today in deploying technology and will be supported by more advanced ICT departments.

What will be left of traditional craft work and writing?

Partly as a reaction to all things virtual, the “maker” culture will flourish, with pupils and teachers embracing learning-by-doing. Unfortunately, handwriting might eventually become more or less out of fashion, except as an art form. But expression through words will be as essential as ever.

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“Handwriting might eventually become more or less out of fashion, except as an art form. But expression through words will be as essential as ever.” — John Martin

Given the new trends of museums and corporate architecture integrating technology and media into their physical space and infrastructure, will schools evolve in a similar way?

I think the integration of technology with the pupil rather than the building is a more interesting development. With mobile devices and wearable technologies, new “Strava’s of learning” will help pupils to unlock their potential. Regarding the physical spaces in schools, I imagine it won’t be very long before screens and 3D printers are ubiquitously available in rich economies.

Given the efficiency of the Internet and home learning, how much time will students be needed in school?

The institution of the school is an important but arguably somewhat weak intervention in the holistic development of our children – after all, in most Western countries, about 80% of their time is spent outside the school. However, schools do offer scale benefits for learning, especially with regard to access to great teachers, learning resources, and to other pupils. Not to forget the added economic benefit of enabling parents to participate in the workforce. In some ways I wonder if a better question might be how we could more effectively look holistically at the learning and welfare of each pupil, rather than how many hours they should go to school?

How important will the presence of physical teachers be?

I believe the teacher is the killer app in education. A great teacher is like a great coach who can help to unlock the potential of each child. Generally, I think it’s best to physically include a teacher in the journey of learning. I don’t think this always has to be in the form of one teacher with 25 pupils; varying the group size and role of the teacher, depending on the situation, is likely to become more common in the future. Some of the tasks of a teacher will probably be made more efficient or even substituted by technology. And there are situations, for example, in case of a shortage of teachers or lack of access to a school, health matters or a wish to learn independently, where a virtual approach would make good sense.

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“With mobile devices and wearable technologies, new ‘Strava’s of learning’ will help pupils to unlock their potential.” — John Martin

Will technology advancement lead to further personalization of education to individual students or will it also increase the techno-bureaucratic need for standardization?

Technology will surely enable the personalization of learning and I would expect that this will result in improved learning outcomes, better engaged pupils and a more efficient school. Whether or not this leads to more bureaucracy and standardization is up to the policymakers. Technology is in itself neither good nor bad but will serve the requirements of the market.

Will we teach students specific “subjects” in traditional classrooms like we have today or will classes be more about integrated/hybrid learning?

I expect the industrial model of education will be re-imagined and re-designed for the post-industrial, knowledge era. It’s a personal view on the future, but I wonder if we will move in the direction of a “T-model” in the next generation. In the vertical of the “T,” each child develops expertise on key “subjects,” but in a much more personalized way than at present – for example, also including adaptive and peer-to-peer learning. And in the horizontal of the “T”, other skills such as collaboration, communication and leadership are learned, maybe in the form of “phenomenon-based learning” programs such as those recently introduced in Finland.

Faced with increasing time spent on digital devices, how can we teach more practical skills, including coping with stress levels and interpersonal conflict?

It was hard to develop “life skills” from a book and the same holds true with devices. The thing about skills is that they generally improve with practice, especially when supported by coaching. So I think it’s a matter of prioritization: don’t over-do the screen time and make sure life skills are on the agenda.

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C. M. Rubin and John Martin

(All Photos are courtesy of Sanoma)

Join me and globally renowned thought leaders including Sir Michael Barber (UK), Dr. Michael Block (U.S.), Dr. Leon Botstein (U.S.), Professor Clay Christensen (U.S.), Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond (U.S.), Dr. MadhavChavan (India), Professor Michael Fullan (Canada), Professor Howard Gardner (U.S.), Professor Andy Hargreaves (U.S.), Professor Yvonne Hellman (The Netherlands), Professor Kristin Helstad (Norway), Jean Hendrickson (U.S.), Professor Rose Hipkins (New Zealand), Professor Cornelia Hoogland (Canada), Honourable Jeff Johnson (Canada), Mme. Chantal Kaufmann (Belgium), Dr. EijaKauppinen (Finland), State Secretary TapioKosunen (Finland), Professor Dominique Lafontaine (Belgium), Professor Hugh Lauder (UK), Lord Ken Macdonald (UK), Professor Geoff Masters (Australia), Professor Barry McGaw (Australia), Shiv Nadar (India), Professor R. Natarajan (India), Dr. Pak Tee Ng (Singapore), Dr. Denise Pope (US), Sridhar Rajagopalan (India), Dr. Diane Ravitch (U.S.), Richard Wilson Riley (U.S.), Sir Ken Robinson (UK), Professor Pasi Sahlberg (Finland), Professor Manabu Sato (Japan), Andreas Schleicher (PISA, OECD), Dr. Anthony Seldon (UK), Dr. David Shaffer (U.S.), Dr. Kirsten Sivesind (Norway), Chancellor Stephen Spahn (U.S.), Yves Theze (LyceeFrancais U.S.), Professor Charles Ungerleider (Canada), Professor Tony Wagner (U.S.), Sir David Watson (UK), Professor Dylan Wiliam (UK), Dr. Mark Wormald (UK), Professor Theo Wubbels (The Netherlands), Professor Michael Young (UK), and Professor Minxuan Zhang (China) as they explore the big picture education questions that all nations face today.
The Global Search for Education Community Page

C. M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, “The Global Search for Education” and “How Will We Read?” She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland, is the publisher of CMRubinWorld, and is a Disruptor Foundation Fellow.

Re-designing education in Finland for the 21st Century

Finland has achieved remarkable success as a high-performing and inclusive education system. But what needs to be done to design a system that will serve the country well in the 21st Century?

Last Friday I joined a workshop in Helsinki organised by Esko Aho, former PM of Finland and his colleague Marco Steinberg, with special guest speaker Prof. Paul Reville, Director of Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Education Redesign Lab, to contribute to the debate on designing a new solution.

Right question

I was enthusiastic about participating because this question is exactly right, and not only for Finland. Sanoma Learning is keen to take a leading role in co-developing and operating new learning solutions and systems. And it’s inspiring to learn from the experience of experts with a passion for education and learning – not only Prof. Reville and Dr. Steinberg – but also the other talented people who joined from amongst others Sitra, Tekes, the City of Helsinki and other companies and institutions.

Revving up the Engine

Prof. Paul Reville, Director of Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Education Redesign Lab I was especially interested to hear Prof. Reville’s vision on the key areas that should be addressed by a future proof solution (or in his words, Human Capital Development Engine for K-12):

  1. To individualise/personalise/customise education such that each pupil emerges from school ready for meaningful employment and 21st Century citizenship
  2. To develop each child holistically including their health and well-being, looking not only at academic performance but also supporting disadvantages such as poverty, mental and social disadvantage and so on.
  3. To significantly increase out-of-school learning opportunities (80% of a child’s time is out of school, making the school environment itself a relatively weak intervention) including such things as summer school, tutoring, sporting, music and art and so on, especially for the less advantaged.

But what are the answers to these challenges? And how to realise change in such a complex environment as education, with many stakeholders?

Advice to Government?

We workshopped on what our advice would be to the new government in Finland on creating the next generation education system. The most important themes that emerged from the discussion (probably not the formal standpoints of any of the organisations represented) were:

  1. To enable the personalisation of learning: developing the talents of every child
  2. To train teachers for 21st Century teaching and learning
  3. To create strategic ownership for the change

How to personalise?

Looking specifically at suggestions that arose from the discussion to government on how to enable personalisation, the main themes were:

  1. To digitalise and personalise the curriculum
  2. To further develop the role and skills of the teacher
  3. To change the organisational model, enabling formal and informal learning, both within and outside the school.

Doing it on purpose at Sanoma Learning

I learned a lot about the design of education systems and about Finland during the day and was inspired by the outcomes of the discussions. I also felt that our purpose at Sanoma Learning – “to enable teachers to develop the talents of every child” is consistent with the described future proof model (or at least the role we can play in it), and that the investments and changes we are making to support this purpose are in the right direction.

Looking forward >>

After the meeting, I have the impression that on the level of the education system, i) bringing strategic ownership to leading the change ii) enabling the skills, pedagogical, curriculum, technology, organisational and cultural change iii) finding a transformational approach for schools from the standardised to the personalised model (it will take years and will not “flip” overnight) and iv) investing in and implementing the change at the right pace, will be harder challenges than concepting the “engine” itself. It’s not going to be a quick-and-easy transformation journey, but if we get it right, we could make a huge positive impact on the learning of our next generation.

Thanks to the team for organising an inspiring day!