The issue of post-pandemic education will be put under the spotlight at this summer’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Some will be championing a return to those face-to-face interactions that have been so missed over the past two years. Others will pull upon positive examples of tech-driven hybrid learning that have helped fill the gap during this period.
Between the two, representatives from Helsinki will be taking centre stage – leveraging the city’s penchant for social equity and its renowned digital acumen – to call for a more agile system where both methods should be deployed, based on innovation-led research.
Leading this call to action will be HundrED, a Finnish company that has helped organisations such as the World Bank and the Lego Foundation to identify impactful and scalable educational solutions and practices.
Lasse Leponiemi, the company’s co-founder and executive director, said: “The education sector is going through a massive transformation where multidisciplinary competencies are combined with traditional subjects. This change is often approached by emphasising problems, but we at HundrED want to change that by focusing on what works.”
Much of the research and innovations that HundrED promotes is teacher-led, recognising professionals’ leaning towards different principles, methods and practices, depending on the need.
“We have to remember that education is always contextual,” said Leponiemi. “The gaps that have been created during Covid are different in different places, and education improvement therefore has to be addressed holistically.
“However, one common factor across all countries, that we will be bringing to light at Davos, is that the world has taken a massive leap towards online and platform economies, which demand new skills – and many countries’ curriculums are struggling to meet this need.”
The best of best practice
In essence, what Helsinki as a tech ecosystem, and HundrED as a facilitator, will be championing at Davos is the idea that tech is not a silver bullet for education in the final teacher-student phase, as each environment calls for a different approach. But it can be the driver of research and understanding en route to a more agile system that enhances both sides of the hybrid learning line.
For example, the company’s Teachers for a Changing World Spotlight, conducted with the World Bank, promoted improved sharing of solutions from different global institutions so that teachers are better exposed to new ideas. Similarly, its Social Emotional Learning Innovations, produced in partnership with the Lego Foundation, shared guidance on how to help children set goals, express emotions and build relationships during stressful times.
Using digital innovation as a way to spread the best of best practice is novel, veering slightly away from schooling’s stereotypical inclination to focus on grades and results.
Perhaps more significantly, however, this style of digital disruption debunks the myth that equality in education means teaching people in exactly the same way.
“When the pandemic began, we conducted a Covid toolkit in collaboration with the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development],” said Leponiemi. “The aim was to identify practical interventions and solutions that schools can implement without additional resources. Our insight was that people were eagerly exploring different kinds of digital intervention during the pandemic.
“However, what was also clear was that while those educators who had been active with such tools had a head start, using technology effectively is something that we have to learn together. More than anything, it’s about building a new kind of collaborative working culture across countries and environments.”
A message from Helsinki to the world
Helsinki will be leading the rallying cry for a more connected and collaborative global ecosystem at Davos in May. This comes partially from the country’s celebrated ingenuity when it comes to the use of technology, but more broadly, it considers Finland’s – and Helsinki’s – determination to use technology for social upliftment.
Essentially, Helsinki’s key spokespeople will be preaching what the country already practises.
“Equity and excellence are key values of the Finnish education system,” said Leponiemi. “We see education as a key investment to provide future prosperity for individuals, and we always treat developments of education as an ongoing urgency.
“We have taken this ethos further by championing a very research-based approach to education.”
This has led to a host of globally significant partnerships, as evidenced by the big names already involved, and a philosophy of ongoing experimentation with new solutions.
From there, the most prominent and successful innovations are unveiled to the Finnish public education system first and foremost. By using innovation as an inclusivity tool as well as an augmentation of existing teaching methods, the hope is to make learning a lifelong habit, rather than just a school requirement.
Leponiemi added: “We often say that we should make sure future generations are life-long learners. We shouldn’t accept anything less from ourselves and from our education systems. The only way to reach that goal is to stay curious and be willing to experiment with new things.”
Society’s biggest equaliser
Helsinki is trying to show the world that, by continuously implementing multidisciplinary competencies and skills to primary and secondary education, a more general resilience to life events can be formed. Meanwhile, the next generation of creative thinkers are being inspired.
It feels the onus is on the rest of the world’s education systems to come to this same realisation, and to leverage tech as a facilitator of this more holistic outlook, not just as a quick catalyst towards hybrid learning post-Covid.
Leponiemi concluded: “New technologies have provided us with possibilities to equip teachers with the latest pedagogical knowledge and know-how to solve the learning gap around the world.
“However, it is now a matter of finding the best way to use innovation in this way, and that begins by remembering that education is always contextual and that improvement needs to be holistic. If we can do this, education can be global society’s biggest equaliser in the coming decades.”
From 22-26 May, Helsinki will share its blueprint for the world around how to build a more sustainable, innovative city with special focus on education, leadership and inclusion. It will do so by presenting the best of its technical ingenuity, but with a society-first emphasis.