The Head of Sino-Finnish Education Research Centre Cai Yuzhuo was interviewed for China Daily on the advantages of Finnish Education. The original article can be found at China Daily’s website
China Daily: Nations have much to learn from each other
Collaboration around education has become one of the highlights of Sino-Finnish relations in recent years, with two-sided exchanges unfolding in a wide range of fields and at all levels.
In 2015, the Sino-Finnish Learning Garden—a framework for education exchanges and cooperation between the two countries, was founded through a bilateral agreement signed by both governments. Following the agreement, the Sino-Finnish Joint Learning Innovation Institute (also known as JoLii) was launched in 2016 with the participation of major universities from both countries and under the coordination of Beijing Normal University and the University of Helsinki.
Cai Yuzhuo, founder of the Chinese Education Research and Exchange Center at the University of Tampere in Finland, said: “With the committed and coordinated actions of JoLii, Sino-Finnish education cooperation will step up to a new level.”
To deepen collaboration between Chinese and Finnish universities, the first Sino-Finnish joint forum on “Learning and Mind” was unveiled in Zhuhai in China in October.
Hannele Niemi, professor of education at the University of Helsinki and chair of JoLii, said the forum offered opportunities to network and expand earlier research cooperation.
Both countries can learn from best practices, she said. But she pointed out that the nations have very different cultural and historical contexts, and noted that “no methods or practices can be transferred directly. They must be fitted and applied in the local contexts.”
Niemi hopes the visit of President Xi Jinping will strengthen research cooperation in educational and learning-related topics. She says joint research projects will produce solutions for many global challenges.
Finland often does well in rankings of global education systems and is well-known for not having banding systems – pupils, regardless of ability, are taught in the same classes.
Liu Baocun, dean of the institute of international and comparative education at Beijing Normal University, said the merits of the Finnish education system are not only seen in its basic education, but in higher and vocational education.
“For instance, Finnish schools and teachers have great autonomy in designing their teaching materials and deciding teaching content,” said Liu. “Teachers in Finland are highly trusted, without direct interference. … Also, being a teacher is one of the most desired professions among Finns.”
In Finland, schools do not usually conduct standardized tests, and students learn skills, rather than facts. Vocational education has equal status to academic learning, and all sectors of higher education are smoothly connected with no “dead ends” for students.
Although Finland’s experiences seem to be useful, pundits point out that education is embedded in and interlinked with the cultural environment, social system, and other facets of society and may not be something that can simply be copied.
Cai, who is also a director of the Sino-Finnish Education Research Center, said: “Among many other things, China should pay special attention to, and learn from Finland on, how Finland has learned from others and adapted borrowed experience into the local context.”
Cai said Finland started reforming its education system in the 1970s and sought the experiences of other countries and the advice of international organizations.
“Finns eventually developed ‘Finnish lessons’ by integrating foreign experiences and adapting them to a unique Finnish environment.