Country Focus: FINLAND

Finland’s STEM success: the role of industry collaboration

Finland has ranked in the very top tier of countries in all PISA assessments over the past decade and this performance has been consistent across schools. What is the secret? 

As part of an on-going National Needs Analysis series, inGenious convened leading Finnish education experts and stakeholders at Nokia’s headquarters in Espoo to assess how the Finnish system impacts school-industry collaboration.  
Below are some highlights from that discussion.


Positive acceptance of school-industry collaboration: 

The value of school - industry collaboration to both pupils and teachers was openly and positively accepted. Industry perceived goals were commonly identified as shaping skills acquisition, recruitment and reputation building.

“I am happy to see many activities related to school-industry collaboration happening in Finland as all parties, including policy makers, have realised the positive impact on education activities” confirms Timo Sorsa, Head of Student Innovation Lab at Nokia. “In most cases the focus is on encouraging pupils to get their hands dirty in doing something concrete and to actively participate in the activity.” 


Nokia Headquarters - Espoo Finland

Benefits for pupils:

Strong motivating effect 

A trigger for gaining the interest of disengaged pupils

Helpful in demonstrating the relevance of school study in the world


Benefits for teachers:

Improve their understanding of the challenges faced by industry

Learn more about what they teach

Enhance their career prospects should they move out of teaching

Changes to the Finnish curriculum reflect such positive image: new curriculums, under development and for release in 2016, will strengthen school industry collaboration. 


“Teachers in Finland are very independent.  They can decide almost everything: how they teach, what they will select from the national curriculum, when they will teach a particular topic”.  Olli Luukkainen, Finnish Teachers Union (OECD 2010).

“Teaching is to Finland what medicine is to much of the rest of the world – the epitome of professional aspiration. With ten applicants per place, and teaching regularly cited as the most admired profession by students, teacher training institutes have their pick of the country’s most able”. (The Learning Curve, Pearson 2013)


Two keys to successful collaboration emerge:

1. Long-standing relationships between the school and the industry partner that go beyond a simple field trip are most effective. 

2. Relevance to the school curriculum is critical.


Barriers to strong collaboration:

Teachers’ time constraints, proximity to industry location, impact of economic downturn on industry participation, industry staff turnover.  

The importance of participating individual’s motivation (teacher and partner) was stressed. 


Main challenges to successful industry educational activity design:

Topic chosen doesn’t relate to the school curriculum

Equipment required is too expensive

Number of student who can participate is too low

Industry partner doesn’t co-operate with schools in designing the activity

Poor design can turn an interesting topic into a boring experience


Tips for good industry educational activity design:

Define roles and responsibilities clearly (See ‘inGenious Code’ insert link) 

Ensure pupil centricity. The pupil needs to be an active participant.

Curriculum relevance is essential

Use different mediums (hands on, group work, video, written material)


“Finnish classrooms are typically described by observers as learner centred… students are expected to take an active role in designing their own learning activities.” OECD 2010. 

“Finnish schools work to cultivate in young people the dispositions and habits of mind often associated with innovators: creativity, flexibility, initiative, risk-taking and the ability to apply knowledge in novel situations.” (OECD 2010)


Reflections on fostering effective collaboration:

Allow teachers preparation time so that they can integrate collaboration effectively into their teaching schedule

Reward teachers who actively collaborate with industry 

Integrate collaboration into the learning process to avoid it being an end of year add-on

Facilitate international collaboration and use new technology as a support of this.

Create a central database of strong industry education practices.

Develop a training program for industry partners wishing to design education practices. 

Published: October 2013