“Creativity belongs to everybody!” declares education guru and creativity researcher Kari Uusikylä. His words strike home with his enthusiastic audience just like a knife sinks into melted butter. The crowded auditorium frequently bursts into applause. The year is 2007.
I was there as a journalist, listening once again to another view as to why Finland had surprisingly leapt to the top ranking in the OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) study, which measures children’s educational knowledge. The international recognition of the excellence of the Finnish school system was welcome, and in part explained Nokia and other success stories in Finland.
Equal, high quality, and free education for everyone. As you might guess, it’s quite a rare phenomenon.
In listening to Uusikylä’s views, I understood that I’m also a major beneficiary of the school system. As a single parent, my mother could hardly have offered her three children a quality tuition-based (private) education. Free schooling and quality teaching have opened up doors to me, and I have reason to be thankful for that.
I’ve worked for almost 20 years on television as a news and current events reporter; and have directed, scripted, and produced documentaries, science programs and TV series.
My years as a reporter and managing editor of Finnish Broadcasting Company’s Teacher TV have given me a vantage point onto educational developments and scientific research on learning. In my work, I’ve often seen teachers enjoying their work and have been able to interview “hero teachers” who try out new things in the classroom without prejudice and are enthusiastic about their job. Oftentimes I’m surprised by how skilled, dedicated, and highly educated many of them are. It’s not rare for a primary school teacher to be working on a doctoral thesis on top of his or her work and then to put new insights from the research into practice in the classroom.
I myself also have gigs as a substitute teacher in schools in the Helsinki metropolitan region and have noticed that both the world and schools are changing rapidly. “It could be that the profession doesn’t even exist yet,” answers my 12-year-old son when I ask him what he dreams of becoming. He may well have hit the nail on the head. What kind of world will it be when they are adults? And what kinds of skills will they need in order to succeed?
Learning visionary Kari Uusitalo sensed today’s challenges already ten years ago. He has said that he detests the fuss around the school rankings and the focus on being “top performers.” For him, the school’s most important job is safeguarding the mental health of students. Of course, this wasn’t a particularly fashionable opinion at a time when everyone was excited about the knowledge possessed by Finnish children. People have quickly realized, though, that a child doesn’t reach his or her full potential just by studying for tests. Therefore, the study of self-knowledge or of, for instance, empathy skills, is nowadays considered to be an important guarantor of mental development and key to the achievement of a superior skill level. Creativity grows and learning progresses when the mind is balanced, self-esteem is healthy, and social skills are in hand.
I’m continuously inspired by scientific research into the human mind and teaching methods. Along the way, aha moments have shaken up my preconceived notions and enhanced my identity as a grown-up and parent. My intent is to share these revelations, tips, new perspectives, and scientific results from learning and a good life.