Sino-Finnish education ventures expected to 'step up to a new level'
A Finnish student from the Confucius Institute at the University of Helsinki performs Peking Opera in an activity marking the institute's fifth anniversary in May.Zhao Changchun / Xinhua
Collaboration in education has become one of the highlights of Sino-Finnish relations in recent years, with 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 China and Finland, was founded. Later, 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.
"With the committed and coordinated actions of JoLii, Sino-Finnish education cooperation will step up to a new level," said Cai Yuzhuo, founder of the Chinese Education, Research and Exchange Centre at the University of Tampere in Finland.
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. The nations have different cultural and historical contexts, she noted, adding that "no methods or practices can be transferred directly. They must be fitted and applied in the local contexts."
Niemi said she hopes the visit of President Xi Jinping will strengthen research cooperation in education. She said joint research projects will produce solutions to many global challenges.
Finland often does well in rankings of global education systems and is known for not labeling children. 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," Liu said. "Teachers in Finland are highly trusted, without direct interference. ... Also, being a teacher is one of the most desired professions."
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.
Cai, who also is a director of the Sino-Finland Education Research and Innovation Centre, said: "Among many other things, China should pay special attention to, and learn from Finland on, how educators have learned from others and adapted those borrowed experiences 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," Cai said.