Fulbright Programs Paving Ways for Partnerships

Finland has worked systematically for several decades to advance quality and equality in education. Our nine-year basic education system guarantees equal access to high quality education for all students, safeguarding good competence for further studies and working life. The OECD PISA studies show that quality and equality are not opposites in the context of education. Often they are in fact complementary, with greater parity tending to increase the quality of education and learning outcomes. This is one of the most important lessons for every country.

Civilized nations build their structures and national economy on the ability to acquire learning. Learning remains at the heart of everything, but the way we learn and the channels we use for learning today are much faster, more flexible and more dynamic than before. This can be seen in the way  youth today use mobile ICT as  a tool in learning. Education systems must be able to integrate these new forms of learning, but schools are still too much focused in their old ways of teaching. To change this, Finland will be introducing an educational cloud service that supports teaching and learning, gives access to teaching materials and allows users to share learning experiences.

The cloud service equips teachers with a wide range of educational material and encourages them to discuss, exchange views and develop teaching strategies together. Easily available materials will hopefully inspire teachers to use various digital services more diffusely, allowing teachers to dedicate more time to interacting with students. These new learning environments are also expected to create a more positive attitude towards school work among students.

Cloud services offer excellent opportunities for producers to promote and disseminate their educational material and services, perhaps even receive expert reviews. Moreover, it makes marketing easier for entrepreneurs, and can eventually also help companies become international. New learning environments, new educational materials and new services are useful just as long as they respond to the challenges in learning and generate better learning outcomes. This challenges teachers and teaching too. For this reason, we believe it is important to encourage research in learning and pedagogical studies, both on the national arena and in international partnerships. Finns and Americans face much the same research challenges, so it is good to see that our two nations are working together in many areas of research. Last year, for instance, several joint research projects were launched, financed by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Academy of Finland and the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Tekes).

There is no denying that research cooperation between the United States and Finland has always played an important role in making the Finnish research and innovation system more international. I believe we should continue to promote collaboration in scientific research between Finnish and American research organizations, and especially in the public, private and third sector, where existing opportunities have not been fully utilized.

Broad collaboration flourishes where people meet. Fulbright programs, well established yet constantly evolving, pave the way for such partnerships. Teacher exchange, which is increasing, is a good example of how the Fulbright cooperation keeps abreast of things, encouraging mobility and collaboration in a field that is important for both countries in building a knowledgeable and successful nation.

Krista Kiuru
Minister of Education and Communications

Fulbright Center News 1/2014