Research & Education

Mar 22, 2018

ON TOP OF THE WORLD

Here goes the bad news: in case you haven't notice, there is no such job as "math". So, don't bother you children with getting a degree as mathematician – he, probably won't like the idea and he will not get a regular job.

By PIOTR PETROVICH

Sure, the world needs mathematicians for many tasks in several sectors of economic and technologic activities. But even math jobs need a strong background in other disciplines like grammar, history and art.

Almost 50 years ago, Finland, decided to take a different turn in the educational system and, judging for the results, the Finn's sure made the right turn: their primary school system was ranked #1 in the world in 2016, according to the World Economic Forum.

Nowadays, the first generations who received these innovations, are now showing results almost daily. Because Finland is currently the most dynamic country in the creation of start-up projects which, in short terms, become successful. Just regard these numbers: four thousand start-ups created every year; the educational system represents 6,3 billion euros and it comes second in the country (after the food sector); and each new school doesn't come cheaper than 10 million euros to the central state.

In addition: education is totally free of charges from pre-school, until university; there are almost no books required (the kids work their days of with tablets); you only take an exam until university; there are no home-works; you never fail a year; and the classes are composed by kids from different ages and social strata.

The current school in Finland, is quite naked from walls. The regular school has only one closed classic school room, with chairs and tables; all the others have sofas or cabinets were the kids work with their tablets. The idea is to make them learn through technology with the methods the books are unable to teach.

Apps like Lightneer and Mightifier are the most common in the tablets. Peter Vesterbacka, co-founder of Lightneer, explains the company's vision towards education: "when we presented the game (Big Bang Legends, a sort of 'Physics Pokémon') to the kids, we left them alone for an hour. When we came back, they said they've enjoyed it very much. When we asked what did they learn about it, they said 'nothing'. But then I asked them how many protons and neutrons were in one of the characters they all got it right". "Teachers called me in the middle of the night saying they never saw kids learn so much, so fast", he adds.

When questioned about the relationship between the educational system and the corporate system, Kirsi Haapamäki, representative of Mightifier, proudly smiles: "this model offers the kids the freedom and tools for them to think by themselves. The system encourages them to find their own solutions, answers and methods to work. Deep down, we're preparing them to give the answers to questions we didn't even asked".

Among the start-ups born around the educational system, is Helsinki International Schools (Hei Schools) which exports the Finnish educational model, providing formation to the teachers, advising over the recreational products and concepts (apps, books and toys) and even designing the schools interiors, too.

The key word to such a world success is flexibility.

In fact, in the Finnish schools that follow the principle of "open plan", there are no differences between rooms or corridors. All the "traditional" school rooms are multimode spaces, only separated with glass walls and mobile divisions. All the furniture is adaptive, and it includes couches and sofas.

This way, the teachers and students, can easily choose the most appropriate space to develop any kind of work or project, depending on the teams' requirements: "the best way to make the children define their own objectives, solve their own problems and conclude their learning based on the objectives",  says Raila Oksanen, a consultant from Finish company FCG (a multi-expertise company that provides services in infrastructure, environmental and urban design, multidisciplinary training and development of public services).

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