Dear education professionals and innovators,
For the past two weeks I have been meeting with experts, thinkers and leaders from all around the globe. Last week in Washington D.C. over 200 mayors, experts and researchers met at the CityLab, organized by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. This week about 700 corporate, academic and civic leaders met at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum Global Future Councils. In two weeks I will be in Beijing meeting with political and corporate leaders about how to improve the world’s economic conditions. All of these events have been attended by the leading minds and activists from all corners of the world. And in the end all of these gatherings end up at the same question: how to prepare ourselves – and more importantly the future generations – to a new, unpredictable world.
A hundred years ago Finland was a poor country. Recovering from the wars and struggling to find its footing with our vast eastern neighbor cornering us in many ways. The only capital we had was forest and people. Helsinki was in the far corner of Europe, underdeveloped and small. We were substantially behind our Nordic and European counterparts in almost every way. Our situation was not very different from some of the underprivileged and poor cities around the world today.
The current success of our country and its capital is to a large extent due to our ability to create a sustainable education system and provide an opportunity and the ability for each and every child to get the basis for a better future. We are now the champions of the modern democratic values and systems that to a large extent base on the ability to lead a progressive, good life under trustworthy and transparent governance. This is one of the major reasons why Helsinki’s presence in these global events is valued. Even though we don’t have all the answers our success in responding to change is a model to which many places around the world aspire to.
For Helsinki’s mayor the reality might look different. In 2017 we launched a new city strategy that is based on a vision of the most functional city in the world. Compared to most places in the world we are already pretty functional. People are highly skilled and technologically curios. They rely on open and transparent governance and take part in democratic systems. However, no country or city is immune to the transformational powers of climate change, digitalization and growing segregation. Our mission must be to stay ahead. To not only adapt but to champion this change. To make sure that no-one is left behind. This is where education is not only a necessary, but a crucial, basis. Not as a tool but as a philosophy, value and a system for better life for all.
According to the World Economic Forum’s recent Worldwide Educating for the Future Index, Finland is the world leader at the provision of future skills education, followed by Switzerland. Both countries particularly excel in the policy environment category, and specifically in terms of formulation of future skills strategy, the periodic review of strategy and the assessment frameworks to support future skills training.
In order for us to stay ahead of major transformations the key defining factor will be our ability to equip people with the capability to a quick adaptation, awareness and healthy critical assessment. Airbnb re-created the way we travel. Amazon transformed the way we shop. Uber transformed the way we move. Anything that can be automated will be automated during the coming years. In a world increasingly defined by change many solutions are being created by start-ups or public-private partnerships and networks of people. So called “softer skills”, like values, team-work and creative thinking will separate us from the robots of the future. Understanding will be more important than knowledge. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put it in other words: “I don’t do a lot of coding as Prime Minister, but understanding how algorithms work, understanding the science is so important,” he said.
Due to all these reasons I am proud that that Helsinki has been identified as a Forerunner City. The HundrED Forerunners identify top-level innovations that can improve education immediately and at scale. Forerunner Helsinki presents system-level innovations for implementing the goals of the new curriculum in Finland. Our view is holistic – it’s not about programs or projects but making a comprehensive transformation that will benefit all schools, students and teachers equally. We don’t believe in quick revolutions. Rather to the gradual process of everyday development in an inclusive and sustainable way. Having said this, we truly embrace inspirational approaches – I don’t think Hello Ruby or Hei School could have been born anywhere else. Striving for a little bit better every day has its advantages. Taking time to grow is something we all need.
I believe that our future success as humanity will lie with our ability to approach global transformations with determination; tackle individual challenges with patience; push away detrimental forces with common sense; fight against lies with reason; go against protectionism with global collaboration; overcome hardship with community building. Beyond everything else we must ensure that the future generations have their shot at saving the world.
I will finish with the always topical words of Malcolm X: Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.
Welcome to Helsinki and the HundrED Innovation Summit at the Helsinki Education Week.