“It’s a bit old-fashioned that one teacher goes to a training and then comes back to the school. We need to have the training within the schools so that teachers learn together.” – Anneli Rautiainen, Finland

At last week’s Partners in Learning Global Forum, we celebrated educational excellence around the world. Without a doubt, we saw some of the most exciting classroom innovation we’ve seen in the decade since Partners in Learning’s founding. But how do we scale-up innovation (ensuring that it’s equitable) and create a system to sustain it over time? We thought we’d ask an educator who knows first-hand how to build and sustain an effective education system, Finland’s Anneli Rautiainen. Finland remains a gold standard for education reform, with leading PISA rankings, high-quality teachers and successful graduates.

So what is the Finnish National Board of Education (FNBE) doing right? According to Rautiainen, Finland’s success comes down to one very important thing: trust. Teaching is a well respected profession and a highly sought-after career. And according to Rautiainen, teachers are given “pedagogical freedom,” along with guidance, coaching and encouragement. They are expected to self-assess, and are provided ongoing professional development to support continuous improvement.

But even Finland’s schools have challenges. In our conversation last week, Rautiainen noted that some teachers still have outmoded attitudes about technology. “We need to implement the pedagogical use of ICT better in our schools,” she says, paying particular attention to ensuring equity between every student. Rautiainen also suggests that “bring your own device” (BYOD) may provide an answer. “How about changing teacher attitudes,” she poses, “so that it would be natural for students to use their mobile phones in every learning situation?

What else is Finland doing to ensure it continues to lead in education? To start, they’re evolving the notion of professional development, in which the government will invest €22 million this year. “It’s a bit old-fashioned that one teacher goes to a training and then comes back to the school,” Rautiainen notes, “We need to have the training within the schools so that teachers learn together.”

Finland is now in the process of updating their core curriculum – something they do every ten years. And teachers will be involved in the process every step of the way. According to Rautiainen, this makes Finnish teachers that much more committed to their work. And it’s yet another clue to Finland’s long-standing success. I hope you learn as much from today’s Daily Edventure as I did. Enjoy!

Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?

I have worked as a class teacher, principal and an educational councilor during my career. In all positions I have been focusing on development and innovation. If I have been able to improve one child´s learning, I think I have achieved the most in my career.

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

It is important that we work for the future. However that requires knowing the past, but not staying there.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

I think that technology plays an important role in everything we do nowadays in our work. We need to look constantly innovative and to find new ways of working.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

Equity is an important value for us in Finland, including in education. One needs to make sure that every child has equal opportunities to learn at his own pace and level.

What is your country/region doing well currently to support education?

We have excellent teacher education at Masters level. We respect and trust our teachers and learners.

What conditions must change in your country/region to better support education?

We need to implement pedagogical use of ICT in all learning.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

Every opportunity can be innovative in any learning situation. Learning needs to be well planned, carried out and evaluated. If schools become learning communities, this will give lots of opportunities to share talents and create innovation.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

Our teachers have been trained to be research-based teachers. When they enter schools to teach, the best way is to have a mentor and share the new knowledge, and then connect that experience with more experienced teachers.

What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

Learning to learn is essential. We need to give tools for children to collect information, but also to be critical about knowledge.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

Any technological, latest advanced tool (tablet, smartphone) so that he could connect with the world and learn to find the information he needs. 

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