Bernadine Joselyn, Core Team member and Director of Public Policy and Engagement at the Blandin Foundation, penned this post for Outposts about some of the things that caught her attention and imagination at last week’s Educating for the 21st Forum.

Yesterday I had the chance to attend Day One of the “Educating for the 21st Century” forum held at the Carlson School of Business as part of this year’s Finn Fest.  My colleagues Ross Savage, Jaci David, and Dane Smith and I showed up to hear presentations from Finnish educators, entrepreneurs, and national government experts in international education.  It was a very full day, made more charming and compelling by all the Finnish names, accents and ideas in the conversation.

Here are some of the things we heard that caught my attention and imagination:

  • The fundamental value of Finland’s educational system is Trust – of teachers and students: There are no national standards or tests; Teachers have autonomy in the classroom and are encouraged to put the relationship with the student at the heart of their work.  Teachers are trusted to judge what is best for students and to report their progress.
  • The Finnish education system values broad knowledge and gives equal emphasis to all aspects of individual growth and learning: personality, morality, creativity, physical health, knowledge and skills.  Our Finnish guests argued in favor of shorter school days and mandatory time out-of-doors each day for kids.
  • The key to quality education is quality teachers. In Finland the teaching field is highly professionalized, and a high value is placed on teachers.  There are 10 applicants for every hire.
  • Learning can be fun and should be fun.  There is great potential in using gaming formats to promote learning.  Mass Education programs now are possible: Angry Birds taught 30 kids to code in one week.  Teaching kids to code is a powerful engagement tool.
  • Learning happens everywhere; not just in the classroom.
  • At the heart of life-long learning is “flow” – the condition between boredom and anxiety – when engaging in an activity is itself its own reward.  Flow is highly contagious.  Cultivating intrinsic motivation –  the attributes of autonomy and competence – helps flow.  The teacher’s role is to enable student engagement.
  • Master teacher Miiska Lehtovaara from Tampere Finland elaborated that active learning requires that students feel the situation and information are meaningful to her or him.  Humor helps.  The right kind of humor comes from respect and a feeling of security.
  • From Peter Vesterbacka, CEO of the company that created Angry Birds, the assertion that “education is the best investment you can make.  Our quality education system is having a big impact on Finland’s business success and innovation.”
  • From Hector Garcia, head of the Chicano Latino Affairs Council, a critique that the American system is designed to produce elites – not equity.  This is short-sided and detrimental in a world that is increasingly interdependence.
  • According to Lauri Jarvilehto, the Finns say: “In Finland you don’t get an A, you get [a glass of] milk.”

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