I had the chance to discover the Finnish Edtech ecosystem while on my Edtech Europe Tour and I can say its potential is huge.
A country that puts pedagogy and teachers first
Finland is known for being one of the most innovative countries in the world when it comes to education. But what is its biggest strength? When asking Finns I met about it, the unanimous answer was: our teachers!
In 2016 in Helsinki, 1770 people applied to become a primary school teacher and only 120 got accepted. That’s an acceptance rate of 9.1%. Becoming a teacher in Finland is harder than getting into most of US universities. Teachers in Finland are not necessarily better paid, they are just much more regarded and their social status is comparable to lawyers or doctors. This profession is seen as a goal for life and there are historical, cultural, political reasons to it but Finns always valued education because ‘brainpower’ is their only natural resource (no metal ores, petroleum and co.) as well as being constantly innovating, thinking outside the box. Teachers are the catalysts of this way of thinking.
The new Finnish curriculum is a norm they have to follow but then municipalities develop local curricula, based on local history, culture and needs and built upon the national one. So adapting to the local context is a requirement! The system is so decentralized, that the 300 municipalities have the power to decide how to arrange education in their own area, and because the system is based on trust, the ministry isn’t checking upon them.
We don’t have inspections nor national testing our system is based on trust (Aija Rinkinen, Counsellor of Education, Ministry of Education and Culture)
Inspection was abolished in the 70s, teachers and student self-evaluate and often times, assessment becomes a dialogue between the pupil and teacher focussing on that self evaluation. Finnish kids will only go through one standardized test in their school life: the matriculation exam when they are 18 and finishing high school. Speaking of High Schools: Only 50 % of Finnish students even go through high school as vocational schools are equally popular.
Although Finland isn’t known for its extensive use of ICT in education, technology is not a separate subject anymore but it’s supposed to be included in all subjects and coding and robotics are now integrated in the curriculum too.
Also, 100% of schools connected to the internet, quite normal for the first country in the world that made broadband a legal right for every citizen.
Edtech is getting bigger and bigger thanks to a dedicated accelerator: xEdu.
xEdu is the heart of the ecosystem : the first Finnish Edtech startup accelerator is doing an amazing job at promoting innovation and technology in Finnish schools and enabling public-private partnerships between the schools and the startups that go through the program. The accelerator is already working closely with a few municipalities (including Espoo) to ensure entrepreneurs can co-create their products with teachers and students directly. From product development to market entry and internationalization, xEdu offers broad assistance including coaching and mentoring, real-life testing environments and a global partner network of recognized leaders in education business.
The accelerator is perfectly located just next the Education Department of the University of Helsinki, to ensure a collaboration between entrepreneurs and future teachers.