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The Future of Education

Opinion: Anneli Rautiainen, Head of Innovation Centre, Finnish National Agency for Education

As there are more signs of distraction than cohesion in the world, we share the urgency for change.Schools cannot remain isolated from this fast moving world. We need to shift the paradigm of education.Education reinforces the students’ positive identity as human beings, learners and community members.

So why is there a need for transfor-mation in the Finnish education system? We have been very fortunate to succeed in education outcomes throughout the years in our country, however, one should keep improving and learning constantly. The world is going through a massive change in technology and in society. The education system is strong in Finland, but it does not necessarily react quickly to changes in the surrounding world.

We are responsible for the students’ skills and readiness for future working life. Traditionally, transformation has been guided through collaborative curriculum work, development projects and new legislation and government policies. Those processes are sometimes too slow.

We also have a concern that while some cities, municipalities and schools develop their working culture and pedagogy, others don’t for some unknown reason. This might cause inequity in student learning outcomes as well as in well-being.

We have also heard the voice of teachers and principals as their work is becoming increasingly more difficult and we see new problems arising in faculty well-being. The Finnish system has been built on the pedagogical trust towards teachers but in addition to merely putting trust towards their work, teachers have needs in being supported when needed. Teachers feel that they need to change, but don’t understand how. Presently student assessment seems to be an obstacle for them.

Students are not objects of learning, but active in their own learning. They explore new questions, have a co-sense and shape the future. We need to trust our students, so that they themselves are capable of discovering and even creating new knowledge, moving from being passive recipients of memorising inputs to finding their own ways of learning as well as discovering how to influence and improve the phenomena that surrounds them. Skills must be present in all learning, not only in knowledge.

Teachers are no longer at the center of learning as being only experts. They facilitate, activate and coach learning. We need to give them the time to discover their new role themselves by collaboration and co-creation. Learning communities must be built in every school. The relationship between students and teachers should become co-creative and dialogic. This pedagogical change requires quality professional learning opportunities for those in the working field. In addition, we must promote excellent initial teacher education for student teachers. We hope that education as a field will continuously attract young people to become teachers.

We must change the role of the learner, the educator, their relationship and most of all schools as an organisation as well as governance. The middle leadership plays a key role in the transformation. This also requires collaboration. A key characteristic leaders must practice includes coaching. Principals must be strong pedagogical leaders, those who lead learning. They need to be well-trained and future-oriented. No longer must they work alone;instead they should involve new stakeholders to co-create in developing schools. Those stakeholders can be youth workers, professionals from the health and social sectors and members from different organisations or working life.

New players must be invited in schools to solve together existing problems and to share ideas on the future steps. No longer will education professionals manage to solve those wicked problems alone. To succeed in this difficult task, principals should turn the focus first on building learning communities in schools.

The whole system change requires the administration at municipal and government levels to transform their working culture as well. Governance should have a shared awareness of education.  We have worked traditionally in silos so to speak. It is time to discover a new perspective of working with other stakeholders. Governance should no longer be a top down approach anywhere.

We need to seek new ways in practice to work with parents and families on learning and well-being as families play a key role in their child’s well-being. Student learning, development and well-being must be supported in cooperation with parents.  I am not sure, if the voice of parents is heard enough yet.

Education systems must no longer focus only on achieving excellence. The change in the mind-set might be difficult to make. We need to think about, how we can approach this; by collaborating, co-creating, involving new players in the development process, experimenting and innovating, even by using analytics. I hope we can reach an ecosystem of education, a system that reacts to the surrounding world by breathing in and out.

Education builds well-being in this world. Our world needs empathy. How can we build a sustainable future through empathy? Can we work through innovations? Can we do experiments to discover, what works and what doesn´t work? Can we work more with narratives?

We have realised that good systems and ideas don´t scale. We need to look for new ways of collaborating with each other also globally to reach well-being and equity for all children and young people, who are the future makers of tomorrow´s fast-moving and unexpected world. We should have a common vision in the world for education and navigate towards the vision by choosing different paths.

Our common task is to help students to identify their strengths and to build their future by learning. Education offers students possibilities for the versatile development of their competence.

We all stand at different points in our countries on education due to the past and present. After all, innovations and experiments can be created everywhere. But we should not leave anyone alone; instead be ready to share and develop together with those who are less experienced in their education systems. Our common task is to help students identify their strengths and to build their future by learning. Education offers students possibilities for the versatile development of their competence. By succeeding in our work, education will help build up human and social capital.

Anneli Rautiainen, Master of Education, has graduated from the Helsinki University in Finland. She has had a long career in education at school, district and government levels as a teacher, vice principal, principal and head of unit. She has worked at the Finnish National Agency for Education (FNAE) for the past seven years. Her responsibilities have included developing pre-primary and basic education, in addition to Early Childhood Education and Care. Presently, she is working as the head of Innovation Center at the FNAE.

Anneli has been a key note speaker in more than 25 countries across the world. Anneli’s approach to education: “I am passionate to develop education. My dream is to help teachers change their teaching and students to take ownership of their own learning. Teachers can make a difference in students´ life. Students need to realise that they learn for their own lives and future. In the changing world, it is necessary to develop the ecosystem of education. ”