Making the strange familiar and the familiar strange
International education partnerships are a good way to enhance global thinking, understanding of multiculturalism and multilingualism and learning from each other. Learning from different cultures increases creativity and leads to new innovations and more sustainable societies. Experiencing different educational practices helps us to see our own routines in a new light as well. Then we become more aware of pros and cons of our own system and more committed to develop our practices. Being stranger or being normal are not characteristics of ourselves, nor of another person, another culture or another educational system. We are just different in some respects but also similar in many respects and together we can create something totally new. Partnerships provide learning possibilities to all educational stakeholder, including students, teachers, principals and policy makers.
Over the last two decades, Finnish education has got a lot of attention and we often hear that it’s best in the world. But I think that different education systems can’t be ranked that way. They all exist and develop in a certain cultural context. What works here might not work somewhere else. Finland has succeeded in creating a common culture that emphasizes the importance of education. The Finns appreciate their school system that provides equal opportunities for all children and we tend to believe that it is the basis of our society. Pupils, teachers and all the other education stakeholders feel appreciated. But in Finland we must constantly develop our practices as well, education never becomes ready. Society changes rapidly and education must keep up with – or even be ahead of – the transformations. Creating partnership with a Finnish institution is not learning from the Finnish system, but mutual learning from each other and joy of creating something new together. We Finns like to share even though it doesn’t seem like it at first.
How and where to start?
Global citizenship skills are highlighted in Finnish curricula at all levels and Finnish institutions want continually establish cooperation projects with foreign schools. But it is important to notice that Finnish schools do not internationalize just for the sake of internationalization: all activity stems from the needs of the education and the learning objectives. Also, as Finnish education has gained a lot of attention worldwide, Finnish schools, education departments and officials are receiving continuous flow of cooperation requests. In this situation, an institution seeking for partnership should find a way to differentiate from other candidates.
Finnish institutions appreciate for example:
- Active partner institutions that are committed to mutual goals.
- Compatible profile and shared values
- Strategic partnership
- Clear objectives for cooperation
- Projects that establish respect and trust towards other nationalities and cultures.
- Often programs supported by government or foundations are preferred due funding options
To help you to navigate in the jungle of different possibilities, we have made a comprehensive Guide for Educational Partnership in Finland. There you will find exhaustive information how to begin partnership with Finnish educational institutions at different levels. Want to establish a sister school agreement, begin a student exchange program in your institution, run a teacher shadowing project or start some commercial cooperation? In our guide you will find very practical tips to get started with your partnership plans. The Finns might have reputation of being reserved at first, but once you establish a partnership with Finns it’s usually long-lasting and warm. One good way to begin discovering Finnish culture and educational system is also to book a workshop in your respective country or visit Finnish schools in Finland with us!
(Finnish nightmares is a a series of funny comics created by Finnish artist Karoliina Korhonen)