Education Development at National Level   (Published: 05.03.2018)

Knowledge and competence as a starting point

The generation, sharing and linking of new knowledge to changing social processes has for some time been the core issue in social debate and decision-making at both national and international levels. In particular, in respect of human rights and equal opportunities countries, the education sector forms a strong agenda in political decision-making.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, an international mechanism for cooperation and decision-making has emerged alongside national decision-making, which also has a major impact on making choices at national level. The starting points and target areas of international cooperation have been the following:

1) Promoting trade and economic cooperation between people and peoples
2) Creating Mechanisms Governing the Use of Force in Transnational Relations
3) Environmental co-operation to safeguard the survival of life for future generations
4) Distribution of income and know-how more evenly distributed across the globe

Today, this international cooperation is a matter of course since international affairs are part of the educational content of almost all national school systems. An exception is made only by those archaic states whose management and decision-making systems are based on dictatorship without a parliamentary or free mass media at national level. The leaders of archaic states are problematic both in their own countries and in international co-operation.

Research, teaching and learning

The free formation of new knowledge and the dissemination of different values ​​and opinions in interpersonal interaction is a central issue when starting to develop an information / knowledge system for an independent country or group of countries. From the beginning of this millennium, it has become increasingly subject to international cooperation and assessment.

Even in ancient Rome, we discussed the question of what the role of institutional education in this activity is. The Seneca flying phrase "Non scholae, sed vitae discimus - We study for life and not for school" has survived. It is still as timely as in ancient Rome as we develop today's knowledge / skills structures in society. Especially when nationals are becoming alike with each other.

However, it should be remembered that knowledge / skills structures have two main functions in society. They produce new knowledge (innovations and research) and transfer and disseminate knowledge and know-how from generation to generation. The latter also happens through other channels, for example media and social media in modern times. The knowledge and know-how structure are an entity that consists of different levels and sector-specific areas. Higher education (HE) differs from other areas because it allows a small nation to create self-sufficient capacity and to stand out from the rest.

Where do we go about building knowledge / know-how?

In many countries there is a debate about impaired learning outcomes in international comparisons. At the same time, the discussion has added new issues and dimensions that should be taken into account in the evaluations of the actions. Countries cannot be ranked merely on the basis of evaluation of teaching and learning outcomes. The knowledge and know-how of society is much more diversified.

Russia's development reflects this multi-dimensionality. Russia has been accentuated in mathematics science since the early 18th century, from the time of Peter the Great. The same focusing was continued during the Soviet Union. Now in Russia and neighboring countries there is a debate, whether the former Soviet Union would break apart if there was a different education system. Russia's archaic modern leadership continues in the same style as in the past. It strengthens the use of force-based national credibility at the expense of citizens' well-being and territorial environmental management.

The construction of an information-based / knowledge-based society resembles the construction of a house. Many national and international aid programs go too fast to set goals and content without knowing the specific circumstances surrounding the cultural and social values ​​of the site. Therefore, this framework needs to be opened up with joint efforts before going into detailed objectives and content by means of four stone scheme: objectives, content, methods and evaluation.

Education policy development and goals

In the history of Europe and the West, the development of the information- / knowledge-supported  structure is based on the renaissance, great explorations, big inventions and the time of so called enlightenment in the 1600s and 1700s. Along with the ecclesiastical scholarship, a secular scholarship was born, realizing the birth of an informal / knowledge institution serving earthly life, from the modern constitutional states and the independent economic activity of public authority.

Industrialization and related ancillary functions (institutionalization of competence and the birth of the current labor movement) continued to be quite similar until the First World War. They were divided into two international movements, which differed from the reform menu. Sweden and the other Nordic countries were among the countries that progressed through social reform through the development of legislation and social policy. The development of the social dimension of teaching and learning process became a part of the social policy.

This social dimension of teaching and learning went a long way ahead with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 at the UN General Assembly, which also includes the rights to education. The social dimension of knowledge and skills was complemented since the early 1990s when Higher Education (HE) and Vocational Education and Training (VET) became active instruments in the regional development policy of states and industrial organizations, which is also nowadays a part of the international cooperation and sustainable development.

Teaching content as a lifelong process

The teaching and learning process has become a lifelong process that no longer restricts itself to childhood and youth. At the same time, teaching and learning aids, among others ICT, has freed the development thinking of training from traditional classroom and Ex Cathedra thinking context in the early 1960s / 1970s during the major education sector changes in Europe. Life-Long-Learning (LLL) as a concept stabilized in international education debate at the beginning of the 21st century.

However, despite the fact that these major policies exist and the international education classification has been updated in 2011, the world is still missing a universal content classification that combines the two input angles of the teaching and learning process across the education sector, enabling the knowledge / competence process to be divided into a single entity that describes the institutional and non-institutional knowledge and skills changes of the individual.

A UNESCO task force "Towards Universal Learning" in 2013 has made a core job for achieving such categorization. It could be used to describe the elements of learning hierarchically from the simplest part of the physical subdivision to complex and abstract thinking. Such a standardized learning system and modern information technology could build a system that could eliminate the fragmentation and inefficiency of the present system with learning contents.

Teacher training and change management

Ensuring change management (teaching training system) is a strategic element in the development of the knowledge / skills system. It is not limited to teacher training establishments (teacher seminars) or pedagogical universities used in the traditional school system, which are specially trained in the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe and in some Western countries. The content of the use of ICT as tool and development methodology should be reviewed again.

Teacher education, which emphasizes change management, is based on the fact that the education of teachers in the knowledge and skills system should be a "problem-solving" academic training that will provide and support greater mobility in different areas of the education system. The "tutor /support person in teaching / learning process" must be able to exploit scientific methods in their work on the field.

At the turn of the 1960s / 1970s, Finland made an exceptional choice in organizing teacher training in the context of comprehensive school reform. The school reform in Finland differed from the Swedish primary school reform. The reform of teacher education slowed down the timetable for basic school reform, but in the long run it helped to prepare other educational levels and teaching staff in the areas of special expertise.

Assessment of learning outcomes impact

In recent years, the number of successful countries in international comparisons has expanded and moved to Asia, where significant results have been achieved in the contemporary international evaluation of school learning outcomes (TIMSS / PIRLS and PISA). The competence and institutional structures of teaching and learning assessment have been strengthened in Finland and many other countries as a result of increased international co-operation.

The assessment of the impact of teaching and learning outcomes has areas that work in cooperation with international actors. At national level, these issues work in two sectors. When approaching the social dimension of knowledge / skills issues, the impact assessment of teaching and learning outcomes at regional and local level involves several non-teaching elements that are not directly related to the development of knowledge / competence issues.

In evaluating learning outcomes in one's own special area, it is a function that creates tools and practices to deliver results and feedback to the individual's personal development. It is less appreciated in the area of ​​teaching and learning evaluation. It is also an important instrument for achieving equality in education policy. Its importance to a maturing individual cannot be measured by numbers.

Overall assessment of the Finnish knowledge  development

If we would like to evaluate the choices made in the Finnish information society / knowledge society development as a whole within the above-mentioned four-tier corner stone model, it must be remembered that the development has taken place in the various areas of competence for more than 50 years when the current one started the primary school reform in the 1960s and went through other levels and sectoral structures later.

In the development of information and expertise in Finnish and European countries, the country's geographical position defined the standards of university and higher education and vocational education before the World War II. Institutions of Eastern Europe and other parts of Europe developed differently. The break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the EU's expansion in 1995 began to affect unified higher education/vocational & professional programs, where pan-European HE / VET models were introduced to eastern Europe without further adapting to the needs of the economy and industrial development stage.

On this basis, an expert opinion based on long professional experience, where Finland as one of the leading countries in the development of teaching and learning processes, has impacted on views and background of assessment, the following table of rating can be presented:

1. Education objectives and education policy - rating for Finland: Excellent
2. Teaching content as a life-long process - rating for Finland: Satisfactory
3. Methods for change and their management - rating for Finland: Excellent
4. Overall assessment of achievement of results - rating for Finland: Good

Learning from the past for the future

The three areas of knowledge / skills with high assessment rating above, do possess some of the add-on value that are in demand in the world either through development co-operation or novel financial instruments. These are areas where outsourced solutions and solutions based on global international experience have not been the desired solutions until now.

In developing its education policy, Finland has built on its strong social dimension-based change management competence. Both students' livelihoods and regional development are instrumental and institutional solutions that support the domestic regional development policy. Recent cuts in this policy must only be seen as temporary phenomenon.

As a result of the increased mobility of students and teachers, in the renewal of teaching content, a single country is dependent on international cooperation and standards. Integration of teaching contents should be done by creating an LLL-based learning frame. In digitalization, the universal content description standard/coding system should be done before large-scale automation.

© Asumer Oy, All Rights Reserved, 2018


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©2018 Heikki K. Auvinen - Development Consultant - Asumer Oy