Tomorrow’s education begins today
“We aren’t planning to have more children because we can’t afford to give them a good education." This is a common statement in many parts of the world, one which the Nordic countries have largely managed to avoid. “Education for all” has been a pillar of the Nordic welfare state. With these observations, Krista Varantola, member of the NordForsk Board and Chair of the Education for Tomorrow Programme Committee, welcomed participants to the programme’s kick-off conference by viewing the situation in an overall perspective.
As society changes, the educational system is also faced with new challenges. This is where research conducted under the Education for Tomorrow programme will make a difference. “We should build further on the key values so fundamental to the Nordic region, where the point of departure is a democratic, egalitarian educational system that includes everyone regardless of ethnicity, gender or socio-economic background" said Ms Varantola to nordforsk.org when she presented the new programme a year ago. This has been the point of departure for the projects that are now funded under the programme. Researchers will conduct comparative studies to explore the similarities and differences, as well as the strengths and weaknesses, of the Nordic educational systems.
Knowledge societies like those found in the Nordic region are dependent on high-quality education, so it is no surprise that the research questions raised are also the object of political interest. Armi Mikkola, Counsellor of Education at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, continued by encouraging the researchers to dare to be more vocal in the public debate, where they can provide important knowledge and facts.
Keynote speaker, Professor Mary James, offered an inspiring glimpse into how the programme board for the British research programme Teaching and Learning has worked actively with dissemination and reached out to teachers and politicians.
Presentations of the funded activities; one Nordic Centre of Excellence and six research projects, provided interesting insight into the researchers’ activities, objectives and methods in areas covering the entire educational cycle from pre-school to university.
Many of the participants met for the first time at the conference and said they appreciated the opportunity to learn more about their colleagues’ work, and especially to be a part of a community of researchers working with related issues under the programme. Several participants also mentioned the opportunities to establish cooperation between projects. Each year the programme will arrange for the participants to meet again, together with decision-makers and other relevant interest groups, as a way of generating interest in the programme’s activities.
Caption 1: Armi Mikkola, Counsellor of Education at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture
Caption 2: Krista Varantola, NordForsk Board member and Chair of the Education for Tomorrow Programme Committee
Caption 3: From the kick-off conference
Caption 4: Gunilla Holm, project leader of the NCoE JustEd
Written by: Lisa H. Ekli, NordForsk
Photo: Terje Heiestad, Millimeterpress