Handling school education and economy: Lessons from Finland – I

Finland, much like Pakistan, was struggling with its educational and economic sectors but the tremendous roundabout it took serves many lessons for developing countries. Pakistan can improve upon its struggling institutions by following Finland's model.

education

Opinion |

At the time of the fall of the USSR or Soviet Union, Finland was struggling with its deep economic growth issues, but in a few years’ time, it was able to turn around its development crisis at the back of three fundamental ways that it adopted.

Firstly, it introduced innovative and thorough educational reforms, which put Finland at the top of the ladder in terms of success in the field of educational performance overall, and specifically as one of the main performers in the ‘Programme for International Student Assessment’ (PISA), which ‘… is the OECD’s (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) Programme for International Student Assessment.

Every three years it tests 15-year-old students from all over the world in reading, mathematics and science. The tests are designed to gauge how well the students master key subjects in order to be prepared for real-life situations in the adult world’.

This, in turn, could be a good way forward for developing countries like Pakistan as a realistic and useful way to engage in AI

The first intervention fed heavily into the second supporting factor, that is, this education reform allowed Finland to move from being an invest-driven economy to one that is driven by knowledge, that is, to becoming a knowledge-driven economy.

The biggest way in which it was able to do was to a) establish its dominance in cellular technology through coming up with an innovate mobile phone manufactured by Nokia, which remained the top brand from 1990s to the early years of 2000s, when Apple, later on, took over this industry through the introduction of smartphones, where Samsung joined Apple in this dominance, and b) excelling in the industry of video games by creating such global brands as ‘Angry Birds’ and ‘Clash of Clans’.

Thirdly, their change in approach to education allowed people to be better at thinking and innovating, with primary manifestations of this change seen a) in coming up with research initiatives, especially in the field of medicine and overall healthcare services, and b) in terms of artificial intelligence (AI). In 2017, Finland emerged as the first country in EU to come up with an official strategy on AI.

Read more: Revisiting Education of Economics – Dr. Omer Javed

Having said, according to Ishita Barua (a researcher at the University of Oslo), ‘Finland’s Minister of Economy, Mika Lintilä, some months ago stated that the country will never have enough resources to compete with countries such as China and the US who are leading the race to develop AI technology. But Finland could nevertheless become a leader in practical applications of AI’. This, in turn, could be a good way forward for developing countries like Pakistan as a realistic and useful way to engage in AI.

In this regard, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has produced a reform document (2017) on AI, ‘Finland’s age of artificial intelligence – Turning Finland into a leading country in the application of artificial intelligence: Objective and recommendations for measures’. This can indeed be a useful learning resource for Pakistan, especially for the Ministry of Education (including provincial departments) and the Higher Education Commission, Ministry of Planning and Development, and the Ministry of Science and Technology, to look into.

Some of the important initiatives with regard to improving the whole attitude and approach towards education can be a good starting point for Pakistan

Hence, a good education system helped the Finns to not only perform in a very wholesome and excellent way in the classroom, but in becoming a frontrunner in ‘change management, implementation of evidence-based measures and education in artificial intelligence’ according to Ishita Barua.

Therefore, it makes sense to learn from Finland in all these aspects, but above all in terms of their approach to education, especially in the way they have used this to allow people to become wholesome thinking human beings, and in using education to lower the inequality in the society.

A recent speech of the PM Imran Khan at an event on education reform emphasized these two points- creating an educational environment that allows people to become ‘all-rounder’, and providing high-class uniform education to all, so that there is equality of opportunity in the society.

Read more: EHSAAS: A so-called welfare program

Some of the important initiatives with regard to improving the whole attitude and approach towards education can be a good starting point for Pakistan, as it embarks on laying out an educational reform strategy that brings equity in terms of opportunities, wholesomeness in terms of student capacities, and better understanding of life and what brings true happiness.

(To be continued…)

Dr. Omer Javed is an institutional political economist, who previously worked at the International Monetary Fund, and holds PhD in Economics from the University of Barcelona. He tweets @omerjaved7. This article was first published in Pakistan Today and has been republished with the author’s permission. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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