Education - latest Finnish export product
Chinese nursing students part of first project
By Piia Elonen
It must have been quite a sight for the Chinese students. One teacher in front of a class in Shanghai plays the part of an overweight patient, while another takes on the role of a nurse giving advice on weight loss.
And now the students are expected to come up with a research question on their own! In China the standard practice is for the wise teacher to give ready answers.
“We also used Nordic walking poles as a prop, which the Chinese are not familiar with”, says Saara Hiltunen, who played the role of the nurse. Playing the patient was her colleague Anita Hollanti.
Normally, Hiltunen teaches at the Central Osrtobothnia University of Applied Sciences in Kokkola, but in the past autumn they have trained Chinese nurses in Shanghai.
They are involved in the new field of exporting education. Sale to order of instruction leading up to an academic degree became possible after legislation that was passed in early 2008. The China project is the first to be implemented so far.
The Ministry of Education wants to change that.
“No new Nokia is emerging in Finland, so in this economic situation we need to search creatively for sectors which could bring employment and generate income. Export of education could easily develop into its own export business”, says Heljä Misukka, Political Secretary of State to Minister of Education Henna Virkkunen (Nat. Coalition Party).
There is no shortage of demand. The Ministry of Education itself has been contacted from around the world.
Saudi Arabia, for instance, would have wanted to buy training for 300,000 employees of the state and state-owned companies.
“These are such massive projects that no organisation or educational institution would be capable of meeting such demand”, Misukka says.
The project would have been worth millions of euros.
The situation is convoluted in Misukka’s opinion. “Usually a product is first developed, and furious attempts are made to market it. Now we would have a good brand and plenty of demand, but no products.”
With its reputation as a country whose schools excel in international PISA evaluations, Finland could especially sell teachers’ training. Export of educational technology could also be linked with it.
“One example would be mobile-based teaching platforms that can be used with the help of a cell phone. In developing countries, many children do not necessarily have pencils or books, but surprisingly many have mobile phones nowadays.”
All that is needed now would be a salesperson.
“It is a bit difficult for the Ministry of Education to start doing business. We would need genuine corporate activities and cooperation among educational institutions.”
To this end, Misukka spent the autumn heading a working group preparing a strategy for educational exports.
The team plans to propose the establishment of an educational export cluster in connection with the Finnish export promotion organisation Finpro, as well as making educational projects key sectors of development cooperation, and an increase in risk capital.
“It is difficult for institutions of higher education to earmark money for such a risk-prone business. We do not really have financial instruments.”
Getting the business started would require investments of EUR 3-5 million in the early years.
The government will discuss the proposals of Misukka’s working group in mid-January.
However, Misukka does expect something of the schools themselves. “We expect the institutions to serve as the engines in this. They are the ones in this country that have the know-how, which was brought about with the help of public finances, by the way.”
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 1.1.2010
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finland breaks point record in PISA study (5.12.2007)
Finland tops PISA in reading and mathematics as well (3.12.2007)
Central Ostrobothnia University of Applied Sciences
PIIA ELONEN / Helsingin Sanomat