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Report Finds Finnish Education System’s Dependency on Project-Based Funding is a Double-Edged Sword

9.9.2020 | BY MARIAH O'MARA

Following a year-long research process HundrED, in partnership with The Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI), has just released a new report focused on how to develop innovation-friendly education systems. 

This article provides a summary of some of the report's findings. You can find a link to access the full report for free at the end of this article. 


The world is changing – inside and outside of schools. It goes without saying that as the world changes, schools must evolve to keep up with that change. Fundamental and difficult issues are not usually related to the need for change, but to how this change is implemented. The purpose of this new report according to Olli-Pekka Heinonen is to, 

“Stimulate debate and interest in an innovation-friendly education system and to highlight perspectives on what is slowing down, preventing, and enabling the implementation and adoption of innovations and best practices.”

This report utilizes mixed methods research, combining qualitative and quantitative research approaches to answer the questions: 

  1. What enables the efficient adoption of innovative activities and solutions in public education systems?
  2. How can Finland’s public education system support the implementation and diffusion of educational innovations?

We looked at three Finnish innovations and four international innovations. Innovations were studied by reviewing their functioning through articles, innovation implementation guidelines, target group interviews, or online surveys. Perspectives focussing on innovation were enriched by personal interviews. 

The three Finnish Innovations studied were: Student Agents, Verme, The Tutor Teacher Activity. The common denominator for all of them is that they are socially created and operate on the basis of public funding from the central government or municipalities. The report finds that in Finland the adoption of innovations is often slow; and that both innovators and early adopters, often receive negative feedback when implementing new operating models. 

When looking at Finnish innovations, it became very clear that project funding played an extremely crucial role – for good and for bad. While it can be stated that many innovations are unlikely to exist without project funding, activities easily become too dependent on project money. It is assumed that the end of project funding also means the end of activities, although this is not necessarily always the case. Alternative financing models do exist, but typically there is not enough time or expertise to find them.

The International innovations studied were: Dream a Dream, Chatta, Remake Learning, and Edcamp. In contrast to Finnish Innovations, international innovations observed typically had a person or a group of people focused solely on the promotion, development, implementation, or funding of the innovation. This seems to be the key to the success of these innovations in every respect.

The report divides innovation success into these three key areas: development, implementation, and funding. In developing an innovation-friendly education system, it is important to concentrate resources between all three sectors. For this to be possible, bold decisions and leadership that support development are needed. If resources are distributed to too many destinations in the short term, activities will be ineffective. The activity becomes erratic and attitudes towards innovations become skeptical or negative, rather than enthusiastic.

If the goal is to bring about change at the education system level, resources are needed to make a coordinated change – otherwise, there is a risk of growing inequalities in education, where some schools develop due to their active approach while others decline. Even a small amount of systematic approach in development, implementing, and funding may multiply the effectiveness of an innovation. At the same time, a community-driven circle of positive change can be created to implement new practices across the education system.


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You can read the full Report, Development of an Innovation-Friendly Innovation System here.


ABOUT AUTHOR

Mariah O'Mara
Media Coordinator at HundrED, a former teacher and life long learner

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