Posts in the TAMK Global Education category

“I started very young; I was in my 30s. It was a freezing water I had to jump in. But I enjoyed it because I always loved the concept of leading. Since I was a child, leadership was a big part of me.”

Persistent and insightful, Director of Business Operations at TAMK EDU, Carita Prokki has spent almost two decades of her life serving Tampere University of Applied Sciences in different roles. Although she started as a teacher in the early 90s, her leadership vision manifested in her actions, beliefs and goals opened doors to new opportunities and career advancements. Carita was soon appointed the dean of School of Business, a role she stayed in for many years and allowed her to practice side teaching.

“When you’re working as a manager or leader, you start missing the teaching. I was then teaching adults, mostly during evenings and Saturdays. I was in heaven those times. And I think the students loved it too because we all had a great time. I used different teaching methods such as group discussions, rather than lectures”, she recalls.

Carita surprised many people when she decided to step out of the dean role and the institution she regards highly. But she reached a turning point in her professional life and felt it was time to do something different. Therefore, she focused her attention on trying something new and completed a PhD in Organizational Leadership.

“If you are not satisfied with your job or life, it also affects people around you. You have to step out and try something new. It’s not always safe, you might fail, but actually, you’re growing all the time. You become stronger. Too many adults feel pushed in the corner and stay there afraid.

Have you ever paid attention to what they say during a pre-flight safety demonstration? If there is a loss of cabin pressure, the panels above your seat will open, and oxygen masks will drop down. If this happens, place the mask over your nose and mouth, and adjust it as necessary. Be sure to adjust your own mask before helping others. Think about it metaphorically. You cannot be good to others if you are not good to yourself. First, help yourself and then somebody else.”

Far from being over, her journey with TAMK took a new direction in the area of global education. TAMK has started this fresh concept in 2011 and Carita came into the picture two years later. In the beginning, there was only the 21st Century Educators programme, but Carita’s huge advantage was her comprehensive knowledge of TAMK.

“I know very well what this institution does and is capable of. You cannot sell Finnish education or tell other people about TAMK without a substantial in-house knowledge. The beginning was very fast, smooth and fruitful. But now, with other universities of applied sciences selling their expertise worldwide, the competition is getting harder, and we think it’s smart to cooperate and unite our forces. While the global trend is more present nowadays, the business ideology is not very developed in Finnish universities.”

So where does TAMK stand out compared to other universities of applied sciences? Carita’s reply is on point: “The vocational teacher education which TAMK takes very seriously. We want to do our best and deliver high-quality results. You need passion to do international business. When you’re passionate about something, it will separate you from the rest.”

On a global scale, TAMK has a unique product found nowhere else: Proakatemia. And Carita knows very well how to make good use of it:  “It happened to me sometimes to go to universities above TAMK’s level. In 30 seconds I realised I have nothing to sell to them, apart from Proakatemia. Nobody in this world has Proakatemia. That’s the ace of spades in my pocket. And I can always use that card to sell our advanced entrepreneurial studies.

She continues: “Almost every day, I think how we can praise our country and education more. Finns are modest; they are not so used with words like excellent or amazing to describe their best assets. But when you go abroad, you have to start using these words. Almost the first question I get no matter where in this world I go is: “What is your ranking in Finland?” There are no rankings in Finland. We never aimed at, we never had any competition or ranked ourselves. I hope we will never do that because it will ruin the basics of our educational system. Let’s leave our references and results speak for themselves.”

TAMK EDU makes Finnish education available worldwide. The most important aspect is adapting to different realities, Carita believes:  “Whether I go to an Arabic, Asian or Latin American country, I have to be very fast and clever with adapting to their cultures. I can’t go there with Finland tattooed on my forehead and say: “Hey! We come from Finland, and we do things like this.” Although everyone admires and knows so much about Finnish education already. To give you an example, China is such a big market that you can have all the Finnish amks (universities of applied sciences) to offer their services there, and it would still cover only a small part of it.

Chinese customers have a different understanding of a group size. We sent them a letter saying we can host a workshop for 30 people and their reply was that their minimum is 300. Last year in August, we flew there for one big training. We had 340 teachers and rectors in the auditorium waiting for us and wanting an interactive training. I was there with Mark Curcher (Program Director of 21st Century Educators and Senior Lecturer), and we had to split all those people into groups to make it interactive. It was a huge learning opportunity for us and an enjoyable experience.”

The Global Education department does not only provide learning experiences for the team that puts its soul into it, but also for TAMK’s teachers. Carita recalls one particular occasion that cracked open a strong taboo: teachers don’t work during their summer holidays.

“In 2013, I was facing a difficult situation. A group from Oman sent me a short notice message that they’d like to visit TAMK during July. Their arrival date was scheduled right after Juhannus, which in Finland is a popular public holiday. Most Finns celebrate it at their summer cottages with family and friends. I emailed the teachers in the morning with no expectations. Anyone who wants to come to work this July? A few hours later, all the teachers were at TAMK. I was amazed by the positive response, and everything went smoothly with the visit. Teachers confessed to me how grateful they were for this opportunity. I believe that the international context is the fastest highway to develop TAMK thanks to the possibilities it provides. International students are very active, they want to make the most out of their studies, and this makes it very pleasant to the teachers as well. There are an extra gratefulness and love you can feel during international courses.”

Carita travels abroad in connection with her work approximately one week each month. When everyone else is at home sleeping, she has to put up with long and often, uncomfortable flights. An alluring smile graced her lips when she detailed about showing up at a workplace: “Sometimes I feel I could be a gardener and grow flowers. But I think we all have moments in our work when we are not happy. Balancing those moments is important. I have to be patient with the global business; to build the trust and develop the relationship with our customers. In a way, I’m like an entrepreneur; I take care of sales, keep the things rolling all the time and motivate my people to sell. But I don’t put the money ahead. That’s not my style. I believe that when you show good results, the money follows.

She adds: “The Global Education department doesn’t receive a budget from TAMK. We rely entirely on the deals we make. “

Despite the high factor of uncertainty associated with her work, Carita collects distinctive rewards: “It’s challenging and the most difficult job I’ve ever done in my whole life so far. At the very moment, you can be challenged until the limits of your skills. But at the very another moment, you are in heaven with people, and you get your second salary from their sentences.”

An effective leader knows that storytelling is an essential part of leadership. And maybe another beautiful thing about Carita is that she is not afraid to pass along brave sentences on feminism and inspire other women to live an authentic life: “Many women have been under a lot of pressure for so long that they have forgotten about themselves. There are so many things women are capable of achieving in their lives. And I think that media is very cautious and not writing about all these things because they are afraid of empowered women. Women are multi-talented and multi-energized.”

Read more about TAMK Global Education

Text: Andruta Ilie
Photo: Tiina Suvanto


Tanyu and Virpi presenting the 21st Century Educators program to the world

Tanyu and Virpi presenting the 21st Century Educators programme to the world

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:

Discover our brand new Master’s programme:

Professor Antonio Roberto de Oliveira has returned to Finland for his second visit this year. This time though, he is not alone. Antonio and six of his students embarked on an innovative journey of discovering new methodologies, learning techniques and entrepreneurship with the aim of changing the traditional system back in their home country, Brazil. On the last leg of their trip, they stopped at TAMK’s Proakatemia to learn more about teamwork and young leadership.

Antonio, where did your second trip to Finland start and when did you arrive to Tampere?

My journey started a week ago, in Helsinki, where we had a workshop on service design and visited a few innovative consultancies.  After that, we went to Tallinn for one day and since Monday, we’ve been in Tampere.

What have you been doing in Tampere?

We visited Mediapolis, New Factory, Futurice , Suomen Luonnonkosmetiikan Osuustukku and Suomen Lasinjalostus during our first two days here. We were impressed by the last company and their great idea of transforming used glass in reusable products. I think that’s an inspiring project. On our last day in Finland, we decided to visit Proakatemia.

What are your impressions so far?

In the morning, there was a one-hour workshop on friend leadership and now we’re taking part in an innovative challenge coming from Suomen Luonnonkosmetiikan Osuustukku, a Finnish company specialized in organic cosmetics. The theme is how to sell organic cosmetic products via Internet. Two of my students, Marcos and his wife, Sheila own a cosmetics company called Medicatriz so they know a lot about the market, customer behavior and touchpoints. Altogether with the rest of the group and Proaketemia students, they have been divided into three teams working together on new ideas. I was amazed to see that Proakatemia students, even though they are younger than my students, are already thinking ahead. They are really nice and engaged people, know what they want and are prepared for the market. The level of discussions in here is high and that’s one the most important things about this place.

Last time we talked, you told me how you wanted to change the traditional system back in your home institution, Rio Branco. Is that still one of your goals?

Yes, it is. In Brazil, the competition is high and we’re not used to work together. When people start learning and going to schools, they’re used with following a traditional system. Nowadays, we’re trying to change their mindsets by working in teams and adding entrepreneurship to all study fields. I know that anyone has the power to be innovative. They just have to push themselves and work as entrepreneurs if they want to create a social impact.

How is this change affecting the way the teacher is perceived?

The teacher is going to be facilitating the process of learning by stepping off of the stage. As a result, students will show more enthusiasm and have more power. To think by themselves and to work in teams. As a teacher, my purpose is to change mindsets with the use of different methodologies. I believe I have the power to do that and show my students the best way to redesign their lives.

Have you got a motto in life?

My motto is “Different to make a difference!”.





In the first three photos: Antonio’s students working in teams with Proakatemia students





In the last two photos: Professor Antonio Roberto de Oliveira, Coordinator of the Master in Branding Innovation at Rio Branco College in Brazil and Virpi Heinonen, Customer Relationship Manager (Global Education at Tampere University of Applied Sciences)

Text & photos: Andruta Ilie

Read about Antonio’s first visit to Finland:

Collaboration is the new key word in education


In the photo ( from left to right): Taylah Clark, Seija Tiainen (Senior Lecturer in Emergency Care at TAMK) and Justin Spiroski

Taylah Clark and Justin Spiroski are the first Australian students from the Western Sydney University to come to TAMK for an exchange experience in the paramedicine and emergency care field. None of them have been to Finland before, so we asked them a few questions.

Can you tell us about your studies back home and how did you end up in Tampere?
Taylah: We’re studying paramedicine; it’s our 3rd and final year. We are the first group of students to be sent internationally for a different learning experience.
Justin: It was a big process with many applicants and we had to choose between England, Finland and South Africa. I wanted to come to Finland because the Scandinavian health care is really good and it sounded like a challenging experience. Weather conditions are exactly the opposite back home and there was also the language barrier to consider.

Any expectations before coming here?
Taylah: I had no idea what to expect. I only knew the flag color.
Justin: I knew it was going to be cold. I’ve never been below zero and on my first day here, there were -28 degrees.
Taylah: We had to buy new shoes, jackets and gloves. It felt like we had to learn how to walk again when it got below zero because it was so icy. We both slipped over and fell in the snow. I thought that now, I’m Finnish (she laughs).
Justin: I had never seen snow before coming here. I had a snowflake in my hand and I kept staring at it. We made snow balls and snow angels. It’s been good.

You worked at the central fire station and in ambulances in Tampere for five weeks. Have you noticed any differences in the technical equipment used in Finland compared to Australia? What about the procedures?
Taylah: I would say most of the equipment is pretty similar but the technology is more advanced in Finland. For example, our ambulances don’t have ultrasound, only the emergency ones, while yours do. You go the extra mile. Otherwise, simulations are quite the same.
Justin: I think that one of the things we do better at home is the information given to paramedics from dispatch. We provide full details and we ask a lot more questions. If the paramedics would knew more information about the patient, it would be much easier to deal with the situation.

Share some funny or memorable moments with us.
Taylah: It was funny sometimes with the language barrier and that many Finnish people introduce themselves saying that their English is not good and then you have a 10-minute conversation in English with no problems.
Justin: If there is any advice I would give to a Finnish person, it would be this: Your English is great! Use it! Don’t be shy! And memorable moments… jumping naked into the snow and ice water was memorable.

Are you planning to come back?
Taylah: Definitely! If Finnish language was an option to learn, I would come back for sure. I could start with three months, work in a bar and learn the language meantime. I’m sure the Aussie bar in Hämeenkatu will hire us (she laughs). Actually, I want to experience the Finnish summer in 2018.
Justin: I wouldn’t hesitate to come back or recommend it to any of my friends. It was cold, but warm in the same time because everyone treated us so nicely.
Taylah: Considering I did this for my degree, I had so much fun. I’m not sure how many people can say that. It was a life learning experience as well. I have never been away from home for so long. I feel I have learned a lot and I’m more confident about the way I handle new things.
Justin: It felt great to be so far away from home, but in the same time to be made feel like home.

Interview has been condensed and edited.

Text & photo: Andruta Ilie

Group photo

In the photo ( from left to right): Mark Curcher ( Program Director for the 21st Century Educators Program at TAMK), Dr Rodolfo Silveira, Carita Prokki ( Director, TAMK EDU) and Virpi Heinonen (Adviser, Global Education at TAMK)

Forty years have passed since his previous trip to Finland, and Doctor Rodolfo Silveira, Counselor at the Technological University of Uruguay (UTEC) and President of Board of Directors at The National Research and Innovation Agency of Uruguay (ANII), returned to visit TAMK and several Finnish universities in order to transfer new teaching and learning techniques back home.

His visit is a consequence of an agreement with UPM (a Finnish forest industry company) in 2015, aiming to build a new Regional Technological University (ITR) in Fray Bentos to advance technical skills and engineering expertise in rural Uruguay. The regional university will specialize in mechatronics, renewable energy, transport and logistics. ‘Finland is famous for its education system, comprehending the early stages up to the academic levels. We have a similar model in Uruguay and we need more innovators and entrepreneurs to facilitate the mobility between different degree offers. The purpose of my trip is to see how it’s possible to collaborate and to develop programmes and activities together. It can be a win-win situation ’, he said.

Dr Silveira recognizes challenges while switching to a new education model. “We have to change people’s mindsets. In general, people are conservative and don’t receive changes well. If we are able to demonstrate this new model actually works, they might respond in a positive way. Our government and political parties are supportive, but without the society’s involvement, it won’t be possible to do anything. The natural course of evolution is to move forward. The whole world is changing and we have to constantly reinvent ourselves. Ideally, it will result in a better life quality for us all.”

Read more about the agreement between UPM and UTEC here:


Text & photo: Andruta Ilie

TAMK Global Education has had a busy few weeks promoting the programs of the university and raising its international education profile.

Mark and Julia present at Bangkok Educa Conference

Mark and Julia present at Bangkok Educa Conference

The month of October started with a trip to Tallinn, Estonia for a visit to Tallinn Technical University to discuss and explore possible areas of collaboration. There are several areas of follow up and we are optimistic about the possibilities ahead.


Next stop was Bangkok, Thailand for Bangkok Educa Exhibition and conference. Thanks to some excellent preparatory work by Her Excellency Kirsti Westphalen, the Finnish Ambassador and her team at the Finnish Embassy in Thailand and Kai Tuorila from FinPro, this was a very worthwhile trip. The trip was notable for the genuine collaboration among the Team Finland delegation. Julia Sergeeva from TAMK Global Education gave delegates an insight into the range of education services that TAMK could provide to help support Thailand in its development. There is currently a lot of interest in vocational education which is currently under developed in the country. Julia’s presentation highlighted the areas where TAMK could help improve this.

Mark Curcher, program director of 21st Century Educators presented the program to an interested audience who were keen to hear about this established international teacher development program. A high level meeting with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration Education Ministry discussed how Finland could support teacher professional development. Over the months ahead TAMK Global Education will be working with the Embassy and FinPro and a Finnish commercial E-Learning enterprise, Skilltize, to explore the market. TAMK and Skilltize have also been invited to co-author and present a paper at The Eleventh International Conference on eLearning for a Knowledge-Based Society in Bangkok in December.

 Team Finland at Bangkok Educa with Her Excellency Kirsti Westphalen, the Finnish Ambassador

Team Finland at Bangkok Educa with Her Excellency Kirsti Westphalen, the Finnish Ambassador


A meeting with Her Excellency the Ambassador and the Bangkok Ministry of Education

A meeting with Her Excellency the Ambassador and the Bangkok Ministry of Education

New Orleans

Mark introduces the Keynote speaker on the first day of the E-Learn conference in New Orleans

Mark introduces the Keynote speaker on the first day of the E-Learn conference in New Orleans

With almost no time to repack the team were then off again, this time heading West to New Orleans (or ‘Norleans’ as it is pronounced by locals) for the AACE E-Learning 2014 conference. This annual international conference brings together around a thousand delegates from 60 countries to present and to discuss innovations and developments in educational technology and E-Learning.

The first task faced by the team was when Mark was asked at very short notice to introduce the opening keynote speaker for the conference. The first presentation session for the team was a showcase session where a poster developed by Julia, Mark and Essi Kannelkoski was displayed and discussed with conference delegates.

Later the same day Julia and Mark co-presented the range of programs that TAMK can offer to the international education community. The next day saw Julia present a paper she had written on the adoption of E-Learning in Russia based on some research that she undertaking. She was excited to have some high profile attendees in the audience such as Prof Jon Dron of Athabasca University, Canada. The extended question and answer session following Julia’s presentation was a reflection of the interest and engagement she had engender in the audience. Prof Dron was complimentary about her presentation.

Mark also presented a paper co-written with Esther Carvalho, Head Principal, Colégio Rio Branco, our partner for the Brazilian cohort of 21st Century Educators. The paper examines how a Finnish online teacher education program is impacting Brazilian teachers and their practice.

Julia presents her paper at E-Learn New Orleans

Julia presents her paper at E-Learn New Orleans

The conference also saw Mark being invited to join the Executive Committee for E-Learn conferences for a three year term and so he will be playing a major role in the planning and organisation of future conferences. Julia’s abilities were recognized by her joining the Special Interest Group (SIG) which is focused on E-Learning in emerging and developing countries.

Raising TAMK Profile

Having travelled thousands of kilometers across time zones and airport transfers, it has been a pretty intense few weeks for the team. This continues at the time of writing with Dr. Carita Prokki represents TAMK in the Middle East in Oman and Qatar. Information on that trip will be provided in a future blog blog post.

It is true to say that the name and reputation of TAMK as an international provider of high quality education programs has been raised from Bangkok in the East to Hawaii (there was a large delegation from Hawaii in New Orleans) in the West. The stress of travel has brought the team members a few coughs and colds, but there is no doubt that this is a small price to pay for the very real promotional work being undertaken. Look out for future updates.


Text: Mark Curcher, Program Director, 21st Century Educators