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REGIONS EUROPE


THE REALBOTTLENECK INMANYOF THE TARGET COUNTRIESWASNOT THE CHILDREN,WHOARE UNIVERSALLY RECEPTIVE, BUT TEACHER SUPPLY


Educating theworld F


FINLAND IS LEVERAGING ITS REPUTATION FOR EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE BY EXPORTING IT GLOBALLY. JACOPO DETTONI REPORTS


inland’s education system has long impressed. The OECD has ranked Finnish pupils among


the best performers in the world for some time, achieving excellence thoughthey spend less time in school than any of their OECD peers. Local teachers tend not to favour the stand- ardised tests and focus on homework


that stand at the core of other educational sys- tems, preferring tailored modules designed to trigger the self-development of each student. In 2010, the Finnish governmentrecognised


thecompetitive advantage of the country’s edu- cation system in a global economy that was increasingly hungry for quality education – particularly inemergingmarkets – andmadeit a priority exportmoving forward. “Educationcommerce is a growing business


andit providesmany opportunities for Finland. The aim is for Finland to become one of the world’s leading education-based economies, one education export strategy, which relies on the high quality of its education system,” the ministry of culture said in the sameyear. A decade into the programme, Finnish


schools are opening up across the globe, from Vietnamto Morocco to Colombia, as the emerg- ing middle classes of fast-growing economies demand high quality education services.


Ubiquitous reputation Finland’s reputation as a top education centre often precedes its education providers. “Wherever I went, it became very obvious


that as soon as people heard where I was from, they wanted to know more about Finland’s education system,” says Finland-born Noora Laitio, a former development finance profes- sional and co-founder of FinlandWay, a com- pany provides early education services, based on the Finnish model, to emerging markets. “There would be people in countries like Brazil, China or SouthAfrica asking if there was


August/September 2020 www.fDiIntelligence.com


anyway I could provide sucheducation services in a scaleableway in their countries. I was asked this questionsomany times that I started think- ing that there must have been something in it, I startedwonderingwhy nobodywas doing it in emerging markets in a way that could be acces- sible to emerging middle classes,” she tells fDi. Ms Laitio eventually developed her interest


into a concrete business intention and FinlandWay was established in 2016. The com- pany has teamed up with school operators in south-east Asia, north Africa and Latin America to sell its preschool education solution under a licensing or franchisingmodel. It was planning to launch its first fully owned schools in Colombia when Covid-19 hit, pushing the pro- ject into 2021. “We looked atmegatrends suchas theemer-


gence of dual-income families, the needs of women wanting to go back to work or joining the workforce and the need for corporate child- care. With rising incomes, families start having much more ambition for their children and set them up for a very successful path even before primary schools. The real bottleneck inmany of the target countries was not the children, who are universally receptive, but teacher [supply],” Ms Laitio adds. Another such company, HEI Schools, is


already providing its preschool solutions to schools across the Asia-Pacific region, from Australia to China and South Korea, as well as Argentina in South America, while in late 2019 it announced a new partnership in Saudi Arabia.


Strengthening thenetwork As part of its strategy to boost the export of education services, the Finnish government set up Education Finland (originally named Future Learning Finland) as a growth pro- gramme with a clear focus on promoting and creating opportunities for the export of Finnish education services.


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