This post is part of a series of interviews with international educators, policy makers, and leaders titled “One Good Question.” These interviews provide answers to my One Good Question (outlined in About) and uncover new questions about education’s impact on the future.
In what ways do our investments in education reveal our beliefs about the next generation’s role in the world?
I’m really encouraged that we’re starting to see our education investments shift to include different projects and initiatives in which students are part of a bigger ecosystem and instrumental in designing our future. The new generation needs to be a part of collaboratively solving world problems. We don’t know what the jobs will be in the future because the world is changing so rapidly. I want to see the future as a sustainable world, where people are empowered to grow and learn for their own success.
We see those expectations in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and on the national level in Finland. To transform our education system is a long process. Fifteen years ago, when I was a teacher, I experienced that the most fascinating way to teach was to learn together with the students. What I saw then was that, when students had problems that they were interested in, they were self motivated to dig deeper. As an entrepreneur, I have learned that the best part of my work is that I need to learn every day. We are social learners. The best part of being an entrepreneur is that we need to test all the time and validate our process. The scientific method is part of my daily life and part of my adult learning process. Education practice is slowly starting to incorporate this method into general pedagogy. The real positive inspiration is that you get interested by yourself and you start to follow some fields or topics and then identify what value you can bring there.
Although we focus on skills and competence based education, those competences aren’t the only means to developing students for the future. Schools are still silos—they are physically isolated from society and within the buildings, school lessons are still divided into one-hour topics with related projects. We’re still learning for the test and valuing extrinsic motivation over instrinsic motivation. My entrepreneurial career is focused on how the school is part of the big community and creating opportunities for schools and students to work together with companies, organizations, and civic groups. Organizations can learn from the students and give students meaningful problems to solve. It also gives forerunner companies the possibility to enhance their learning about next-generation employees and consumers. As a result, students get relevant learning beyond classes, more experience and opportunities to find their own passion and motivation for learning.
Your past projects have centered on student agency in innovation and problem-solving. What does it mean for greater society to have today’s youth be an integral part of entrepreneurial solutions?
Today’s learning is organized around problem-based learning, challenges and case studies. What if this could be done in close collaboration in our actual economic ecosystem ? If we can bridge this gap, it helps us to employ the young graduates and build their courage, self confidence, and attitude for lifelong learning and self trust. We can create opportunities for students to feel integrated and valuable in greater society. We help students with their ideas and have industry experts who are willing to listen and coach them. In the end, students come up with brilliant solutions to company-based challenges or their own ideas for start-ups. This model also increases democratic opportunities for the broader population.
One thing that I’ve learned is that, when students are really working on their own ideas, they want to be responsible for their own learning. It doesn’t mean that they don’t need support, but that they can then identify the supports that they need. That’s what creates a critical role for teachers, facilitators and companies to respond to the students’ needs. Access to community-supported learning needs to be a right for everybody. We still have work to do to refine the models that connect the employers and students. Under our new venture, LearnBrand, we want to give students an opportunity to apply the knowledge that they’ve learned, which is a critical part of the learning process. We focus on actionable learning where we engage people during their college and university studies. We give them real world assignments and experience. We build a bridge between learners and employers and help both sides equally; students grow their practical skills and employers manage their future talent pipeline.
Anu Passi-Rauste, an avant-garde educator and leading expert in digital learning, challenges educators, students, and policymakers to adopt innovative approaches to education in K-12, higher education, and corporate training settings. Her latest venture, LearnBrand, strengthens business partnerships for college and university students.