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'Lower stress allows students to learn more effectively,' says Niina Uusimäki

Finland University is a consortium jointly owned by Tampere University, University of Eastern Finland, University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University – four of Finland’s leading research universities. Our exclusive interview with CEO Ms. Niina Uusimäki highlights what makes Finland a leading country in the Education Sector.

What makes the GCC an attractive market for Finland University? Do you think students in the region are more keen to study in Europe than in Asia or America?

Europe provides a great opportunity to study for students looking for alternatives to more traditional countries. Wellbeing and a functioning society, flexibility and the independence of studies positively surprises many students. Another thing which comes as a surprise to many is the level of English – almost all Finns speak English. Finland体育365 is also the safest country in the world, so students and their parents don’t need to worry as much as in some other countries. The quality of education is obviously one of the main things to highlight, but also the flexibility of studies allows students to study according to their own schedule and many students graduate sooner than expected. This is one of the things that make Finland different from many other countries. We are looking for talented students who could continue their academic careers in Finland or abroad and that makes GCC an attractive market for us.

With the opening of the Finland University Oman Branch in 2016, is there hope of a UAE campus?

Finland University Oman Branch was opened to facilitate a capacity-building programme together with the Ministry of Education. We helped develop English teachers’ professional skills and education research capabilities. Our current strategic choice is not to open traditional international overseas campuses for full-degree studies, but we look forward to establishing collaboration with local partners to open joint training centres e.g. in the field of early childhood education, basic education or innovation and entrepreneurship. The UAE would be a perfect fit for us and we are open to start discussions with potential local partners.

Can you tell us more about the KiVa program? Would schools in the UAE benefit from this program?

体育365KiVa is an evidence-based program to prevent bullying and to tackle the cases of bullying effectively. The former is crucial but also the latter is important, as no prevention efforts will make bullying disappear once and for all; there needs to be tools to be utilized when a case of bullying comes to light. The third aspect of KiVa is constant monitoring of the situation in one’s school and the changes taking place over time; this is enabled by the online tools included in KiVa. These tools produce annual feedback for each school about their implementation of the program as well as the outcomes obtained. KiVa is a whole-school program that has age-specific materials for students from 6-16 years old. In addition, KiVa provides materials for teachers and parents.

KiVa was developed at the University of Turku, Finland, with funding from the Ministry of Education and Culture. The effectiveness of KiVa has been shown in a large randomized controlled trial. In Finland, KiVa is a sought-after program: a big proportion of all comprehensive schools in the country are registered KiVa schools implementing the program. KiVa has received wide publicity also outside the borders of Finland and is spreading to new countries and regions at a fast pace – currently operational in 21 countries. We are looking for long-term licencing partners who can be local distributors for selected or all comprehensive schools in UAE. The program needs to be implemented with care in order to gain measurable results.

体育365Research shows that bullying is a global phenomenon; it exists in all countries and in all schools. Bullying behavior is motivated by the gain of higher status, power and popularity and reinforced through the behavior of bystanders. Thus, bullying is a group phenomenon and this holds true globally. In order to stop bullying, we need to make anti-bullying attitudes salient in the schools, to raise awareness of the role the whole peer group plays in the bullying process, increase the feeling of empathy towards victimized peers as well as provide the students with safe strategies on how to support and help the victimized peers. KiVa is successful in all these objectives. We believe also schools in the UAE would benefit from the KiVa program to help them create a safer and more effective learning environment.

Do you believe that less homework improves the wellbeing of students?

Wellbeing is a complex topic and impacted by many different factors. Creating a learning environment where learning happens in many forms – of which homework can be a small part of – is one of many factors for improving the wellbeing of students. We believe that the main learning should happen at schools, especially the younger the children are, and they should have enough free time after school. In addition, according to research, family time, exercise and a good night’s sleep improve students performance and wellbeing. Lower stress levels allow students to learn more with less time spent with homework. It is also statistically proven that children need physical activity to learn better, so it is important to balance the time between lessons and homework vs recess between the classes and free time after school.

How can the UAE improve productivity within schools & universities? Do they require shorter school days?

体育365In the Finnish model, we have improved productivity and learning outcomes with highly professional teachers who have the ability to teach in a way children learn better. We also see that our educational system with special focus on an adaptive curriculum, well-designed learning environments and assessment methods which support individual growth of each student lay a foundation for our productivity. In addition, we have an extensive set of support services at universities that enable lecturers, researchers and professors to focus on their expertise. However, we do not believe the Finnish model is something that can be easily copied to other countries as is, but there are many researches and models to support the UAE finding their own model which would work in the society. We believe in evidence-based models, so any action or change done should also be followed up and researched to see the true impact on many levels, not only measures to improve productivity, but also to improve the wellbeing and happiness of the students, teachers and families.

About the Speaker

Ms. Niina Uusimäki, CEO of Finland University, is an experienced business executive with a passion to make the world a better place. In her current role, she helps public and private sector organisations from around the world build 21st century skills through education, innovation and research.  

Related Tags

Finland Universities Universities in Finland University of Eastern Finland University of Turku Abo Akademi University University of Tampere

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