Renowned for its quality education, the Finland Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms. Pirjo Suomela-Chordhury has reiterated the unarguable place of education as a key element for individual and societal development. Peace Obi reports

Finland as a country sees and treats education as a national priority. Education is valued by the Finnish Government that it offers every citizen equal opportunity and access to quality education, thereby eliminating barriers like social and financial status.

Speaking at the 10th Total School Support Seminar/Exhibition (TOSSE) in Lagos recently, the Finland Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms. Pirjo Suomela-Chordhury said Finland’s success story hinges on its quality education and citizens’ equal access to it.

She said in Finland’s 100 years of independence, education has been the most important element in building the country, adding that it has been a powerful instrument of social mobility that has transformed the lives of the Finns.

According to her, the country believes that everyone deserves an equal start in life. “Education is what built my country. It is indeed a very central building block of the equality – gender and otherwise that characterises Finland. We believe that everyone deserves an equal start in life. Education is of course the way for an individual to realise his/her full potential in the world of work and to have a fulfilling career. Equality of opportunity is ultimately what brings the best out of people and that is what best serves our society.”

She highlighted some of the defining elements of Finnish education to include availability of good schools for all in every corner of the country, highly motivated teachers, quality teacher training, among others.

Suomela-Chordhury said in Finland, “it does not matter where you go to school. You will receive the same standard of education and your results will be just appreciated whether you graduated from a small school in the northernmost corner of Finland or somewhere else. There is a very strong appreciation of the notion of education and learning. Highly qualified and motivated teachers are essential element of any school system. Teacher training in Finland is taken very seriously.

“All teachers have master’s degree; the teaching profession is popular and well appreciated. Teachers are respected professionals who have strong autonomy in their work. Qualified professionals are also responsible for early childhood education.”

She added that the country has also tried to avoid ‘dead ends’, noting that it is possible for one to enrol for a higher education after vocational school.

According to the ambassador, the good results in Finnish education are produced by a system that is based on equal opportunity, flexibility of the educational path, a student-centred approach, appreciation of vocational education, highly qualified teaching staff, and a strong appreciation of education and learning.

“Education is what built my country. When you do not have many people or abundant natural resources, you have to make the most of the human resources that you have. And of course, this applies to every society. No country can afford to waste its human capital.”

Also speaking, a member of the Finland’s Education Delegation to Nigeria for the 10th TOSSE, Riikka Halikka, said the secret of the country’s excellence in education lies in its continuous capacity building and ability to learn and innovate its educational system to serve as a natural resource to create the top-notch education it now offers.

The International Business Development Manager of the University of Helsinki Centre for Continuing Education aka HYplus said the institution has been a contributing factor to Finland becoming a leader in education. “We are often described as ‘education superpower’ because of the quality of our teachers and our well-functioning system.”

She stressed that the institution and the country attained their current status of education superpower through endless research. “We are able to tap into knowledge that was never available to us before and this takes us to the next level of learning and teaching towards a better and more rewarding professional improvement through our endless researching process to make our education work better than now.

“HYplus has a long experience of providing support education and school reforms in international collaboration. And we investigate innovations in teaching capacity from teaching made-easy to have extremely safe learning society and enjoy a good balance between teaching work and home life.”

She added that HYplus offers continuing education in Finland and globally in teacher capacity building and professional development, learning methods such as phenomenon-based learning, innovative methods in STEM education.

Speaking on her experience in Nigeria, Halikka, who described Nigerians as wonderful people, said HYplus is open and ready to provide professional development services for organisations in the field of education that would bring about better teaching and learning experiences for Nigerians. She said in addition to helping to provide its services, the institution is also inviting Nigerian organisations, especially those in the field of education to come to Finland to learn more about the Finnish educational system.

According to her, HYplus’ services include but not limited to Finnish innovative teaching methods, leadership development programme, and customised in-service teacher training programme which meets the needs of the 21st century with state-of-the-art learning and teaching skills enhanced by teacher training.

“The proven success of the Finnish education system and its excellence in teacher training provide an excellent basis for the University of Helsinki’s customised in-service teacher training programmes and helps educators confront pedagogical challenges.”

In her presentation titled ‘Finnish Early Childhood Education and Care’, the Chief of Development of Finhow, Minna Bjorkman, stressed that long-life learning, high standards, trust and responsibility are just a few reasons why the Finnish education system is praised around the world.

According to the representative of the Finland-based company that specialises in Finnish early childhood education, the company came to share the Finnish approach to early childhood education with Nigerians. She stated that the Finnish model is basically about play and using play actively in learning, adding that it is more about starting with the need of the child, instead of a fully planned curriculum from teacher-centred way of doing things.

“Our goal is to offer a complete Finnish early childhood education tailored to your local customs and cultural needs. Our pedagogical model stems from neuroscience, child psychology, positive education and early attachment theories. It is used, developed and evaluated in our own nursery schools in close cooperation with several academic scholars, and of course, parents.

“We came to share some of the Finnish success tips in education. We brought to Nigeria our model of early childhood education, teacher training, teachers consultancy to operators, investors and everybody who is interested in building an early childhood education centre or that already has one but wants to operate it with the Finnish world model,” Bjorkman said.

According to the coordinator of the delegation and Managing Director, Appleblossom M.I. Limited, Mr. Abayomi Magbagbeola, the visit was one of the numerous interactions the two countries will have in the areas of education and human capital development. He said as a professional human capital development, project management and consulting company that specialises in Finland and Nordic countries, it believes in the power of human mind and capacity to maximize its potential in a conducive environment.

He said Appleblossom provides an extensive co-operation network and know-how to operational environment, language and cultural communication to accelerate business development and partnership with Finland and the Nordic countries.

Earlier in her remarks, the Managing Director, Edumark Consult, Mrs. Yinka Ogunde said the journey that began some 10 years ago, felt like it was just yesterday when the first edition took off. “It feels like yesterday when we all stood in Sheraton Hotel, taking our first steps towards a challenge we saw in the sector: that of helping schools find credible suppliers of innovative educational solutions. What a journey it has been. We now occupy the biggest event centre in the mainland and we are very pressed for space; from that one day event with about three seminars to a two-day event with close to 20 free seminars.”

She said the annual event now attracts educators from over 20 states in Nigeria and from other countries. “As at last count, we have had participants from the US, UK, United Arab Emirates, India, Poland, Uganda, Togo and others we may not have captured. This year, Finland is ably represented and we know that Finland is the current poster child for sound education system. We have truly come a long way, long enough for TOSSE to birth its own projects such as TOSSE Tech. Now we are taking it out of our shores beginning with TOSSE Ghana in 2019.”