Outstanding, highly acclaimed and on top of Europe’s rankings for the past 16 years, the Finnish education system continues to be an appealing topic for many educational institutions around the world. Consider the World Economic Forum and the many articles published on insights and secrets of Finland’s one of the most successful exports to the world. With the doors to the world already open and an increasing worldwide interest, a team of experts from Tampere University of Applied Sciences discovered an undeniable need of educating teachers through innovative methodologies to guarantee immediate results. Meet TAMK’s 21st Century Educators.
21st Century Educators is a fully supported, cohort based, collaborative programme which believes that learning is best undertaken as a social activity in an authentic context. The programme is developed so that it encompasses courses and services which can be delivered either online, face to face or in a blended format by TAMK Global Education. Which countries respond the best to the program? What skills should the educator of the future possess? Customer Relationship Managers, Virpi Heinonen and Tanyu Chen provided me the answers.
The first thing I notice when I step into their office is the chemistry between Virpi and Tanyu and how they conclude each other’s answers. Virpi constantly gives Tanyu the chance to share ideas related to her experience as a researcher well-accustomed to the Chinese market. As a consequence, Tanyu discloses how satisfied she is with her work “I realized that what I learned, researched and analyzed in theory, I can put in practice at TAMK.”
This year, they have worked with partners in China, Brazil, USA, Uruguay, Oman and Myanmar but the first two are the most eager to learn about the Finnish education system and implement the knowledge into their teaching practices. When it comes to China, the opportunities are bigger since the education model is shifting. “In 2015, the Chinese Ministry of Education issued a new policy wanting to have 600 out of 2000 existing higher education institutions transferred to universities of applied sciences. This is a big transformation. If previously the education methods and approaches were adopted from English speaking countries, nowadays China is more focused on the Nordic countries. They are deeply impressed with the Finnish education.” states Tanyu. Despite their sincere enthusiasm, Chinese customers are not easy to reach. For high-end customers, traditional face to face training is preferred to digital studies.
“We have been operating in the Chinese market for two years now and our program is very well known there because China is a very special case. Universities send their leaders to study abroad which means the management and the leadership are the core. Teachers don’t have so many opportunities and their visits here are relatively short. So if we can impact the leaders, then they will make the right decisions regarding the teacher training services.” she adds.
Do they have a follow-up scheme to track the progress of Chinese leaders back in their homeland? “Actually, we do have a follow-up scheme to collect the feedback for those who have learned in Finland and we also have Finnish experts to train the local teachers in China. So far, we received positive feedback from those teachers who attended the teacher trainings. Many of them got promoted or their level of teaching has increased. Teachers are switching their daily practices and taking to their classrooms what they learned from Finland. It’s very difficult in the beginning because their mindsets have changed, but the students’ not yet. The change is gradually happening in the classroom and it’s a slow process. “
Virpi travels more often to Latin American countries and Brazil is a top destination. “With Brazil it is going well. We just had our third graduated group and they are all great ambassadors. They are marketing Finland themselves within the federal institute where they work at so we are expecting more Brazilian teachers next year and we are also sending our teachers to Brazil. Mark Curcher, our Program Director is also taking care of the online program and services besides travelling to Brazil for conferences and workshops. We have traded in Brazil for four years already and there has been a lot of interest in Proakatemia type of innovation weeks, leadership and coaching trainings. TAMK will have a new Master’s programme in Educational Leadership starting in 2017 and the goal is to prepare those who work in educational institutions, HR management, governmental positions or NGO’s. We are hoping to reach people from different countries with interesting and distinctive backgrounds.”
The must-have competences of a future educator
Is leadership one of the must-have competences of a future educator then? “Definitely. Leadership and coaching skills are the most needed at the moment. An educator has to be able to facilitate the student’s learning process. Students are already capable to find the information they need to support their studies so the teacher’s role is to facilitate the learning conditions and create an experience.” continues Virpi.
“If you go deep, you’ll probably find lots of skills. Lifelong learning and cultural competences are also very important. To always be hungry for learning and developing new skills and share them with your group of students. All student groups are diverse and international and we learn from them as much as they learn from us.”
Virpi and Tanyu have been working together for slightly over one year now and laid the basis of a small, but very efficient team. And while they’re selling the expertise of different degree programmes to other countries, they are counting on all the support they can get from the head of each department and front-line teachers. Especially when they have international visitors interested in class observation, laboratory showing and project presentation. A quick response is crucial in sealing the deals from which the whole institution benefits.
“We need everyone’s help and more effective internal communications in order to reach our future goals and spread the Joy of Discovery to the rest of the world.”
Text & photo: Andruta Ilie
Read more about 21st Century Educators: http://21stcenturyeducators.tamk.fi/
Discover our brand new Master’s programme: http://www.tamk.fi/web/tamken/educational-leadership-master