Think outside the box: education, the Finnish way

In Finland, schoolchildren do not learn subjects anymore. Contrary to the old belief, in the current fast times, an education system based on passive learning and closed doors appears less and less apt at preparing children for their future. This is why in the past years there has been a shift in how Finland educates the new generations. With good results: the Finnish education system is constantly ranked among the best in the world.

During the European Development Days, The New European had the chance to interview Mervi Jansson, a pioneer in education in Finland, who has contributed directly in the creation of a better Finnish education system.

Ms. Jansson is the CEO of OMNIA Education Partnerships, an international firm that represents four Finnish organisations that work in development, humanitarian assistance, vocational training an education.

Mervi Jansson, CEO of Omnia Education Partnership
Mervi Jansson, CEO of Omnia Education Partnership

Based on her expertise in education, she has a clear view of what schools should be like: “schools need to empower people and give them the means for living”. Ms. Jansson believes that education is about teaching students find their strengths and deal with their weakness.

Traditional methods of education, where students tend to learn subjects from a course book and then copy the answers, have proven not to motivate students enough. .In this simple process, students are not encouraged to spen any time thinking. This is the main reason why Ms. Jansson is a firm believer that teaching subjects is overrated. She believes that “teaching subjects is old-fashioned: the future is the phenomenon-based learning”.

Phenomenon-based learning fosters creative thinking, crreating an entrepreneurial mindset. This term, Ms Jansson cautions, must be understood as the process of “thinking outside the box”, not only as the process of setting up companies.

To achieve this creative thinking, children must be exposed to a messy education and challenged by real life. Students must be outside, try new things every day, learn how to create values as a team and also learn how to relate to other people. “This is the only way children can understand to evaluate risk”, says the OMNIA CEO. On the same line, Ms. Jansson argues that “if entrepreneurship could be learned on a book, all of us will be entrepreneurs”.

Overall, teachers have to change how they teach: certainty must be avoided, correct or wrong answers do no longer exist and the content must be linked to the real life of students. For instance, learning about numbers can be tough, but in Finland students are taken outside the classrooms to learn how to count things that are outdoors (trees, cars, etc.). Linking concepts to daily situations help students learn faster.

All jobs will be smart jobs”, predicts Ms. Jansson. Indeed, innovation will affect the labour market even more than it already has. New jobs are going to be created, while other will disappear. Large companies and the public service will no longer provide jobs that were fairly constant and long-term. Therefore, having an entrepreneurial mindset will help workers cope with the new challenges and be more willing to get out of their comfort zone.

Education is a journey that must allow students to gain skills for life and contribute to their inner development. Memorising concepts will not prepare children for their future anymore. It is the time for Europe to embrace a “messy education” and allow students to think outside the box.


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