The strengths of Finnish education are utilised in development cooperation
Finland’s long-term expertise in education and teaching yields results also in many of Finland’s development cooperation partner countries. Particularly good results have been achieved in Ethiopia, Nepal and Mozambique.
Today around 90 per cent of children in the developing countries start school. Problems still remain: dropping out of basic education is still common and the quality of teaching may be rather poor. The global goal for the next 15 years is to make education more effective all around the world.
Finland conducts bilateral development cooperation activities in the education sector in Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nepal, Myanmar, Palestinian territories, and Afghanistan. Furthermore, Finland provides support for the education of Syrian refugee children in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and inside Syria through UNICEF.
In the countries mentioned above, Finland finances teaching, supports teacher education and strives to enhance the quality of the school system – in other words, endeavours to put into effect the key factors behind the success of the Finnish education system.
Many non-governmental organisations also play an important role in the development cooperation. When observed in the long term, around one fourth of Finland’s development cooperation funding in the education sector is channelled through the various NGOs. Of the UN organisations, UNESCO and UNICEF are the two most important channels for supporting education-related efforts.
Moreover, Finland supports the Higher Education Institutions Institutional Cooperation Instrument (HEI-ICI), the voluntary work programme for the teaching staff Teachers Without Borders, and the cooperation between the higher education institutions in Eritrea.
How can Finland benefit?
Development cooperation in the education sector strengthens also the Finnish expertise. Development cooperation provides demanding job opportunities for Finnish experts in the education administration, expert organisations, educational institutions, other organisations, and companies in the partner countries.
Finnish actors of vocational education and training, such as joint authorities for education, have become involved in the development cooperation activities for example through EU projects. They have drawn up an action plan for the export of upper secondary education.
Many companies have gained international experience and built networks when engaging in the development cooperation. For example Egypt and Peru are planning to intensify educational cooperation with Finland on a commercial basis.
In the beginning of this year, the Ministry of Education and Culture drew up a so-called roadmap for the promotion of education exports, and an ambassador for education export was appointed in September.
Education lays down a foundation for equality
Education plays a key role in the Finnish development policy. This is clearly visible in the priority areas determined in the Government Report on Development Policy adopted in the beginning of this year: the objective is to strengthen the rights and status of women and girls and to make societies more democratic and better-functioning.
Finland’s development cooperation in the education sector is also one of the measures to promote sustainable development determined in Agenda2030. In addition, the education sector has its own action plan, Education 2030 Framework for Action, to monitor and support the implementation of the development objectives.
Cooperation in the education sector is strongly based on respect for human rights. Finland has had projects promoting the right of disabled children to go to school since the 1980s and projects promoting the teaching of ethnic minorities’ mother tongues since the 2000s.
Girls’ right to education has been supported for example by promoting free basic education and financing the endeavours to enhance the quality of education systems and teaching. In some cases, such as in Nepal, financial support has been provided for parents so that they could let their daughters go to school.
In Afghanistan, Finland has supported literacy courses organised by UNESCO. Finland has also participated in a project for constructing toilet facilities in school buildings, which for its part enhances girls’ opportunities to go to school. This project was carried out in cooperation with UNESCO.
Ethiopia has progressed rapidly in the attainment of the goals set for education in the country. While in the beginning of 1990s only one child in four were enrolled in primary education, today more than 95 per cent of Ethiopian children start school. Finland has been a forerunner in the development of special-needs education in Ethiopia, and an increasing number of disabled children go to school these days.
Finland has participated in the development of Ethiopia’s education sector as long as for 30 years. The first step taken on this path was training Ethiopian special needs teachers at the University of Jyv?skyl?. These days, the focus is on the improvement of the quality of teaching. The population of Ethiopia is growing rapidly, which means that also the number of pupils is increasing equally fast. The number of pupils in basic education is almost 17.5 million, and the class sizes are big.
Finnish NGOs have also been active in making special-needs education and inclusive education a part of the official school system in the country.
Finland’s support for the education sector in Nepal has borne fruit. In the period 2010–2016, the objective was to expand the coverage of education, to improve equality in education, and to enhance the quality of education. Special attention was paid to the educational opportunities of the most marginalised groups, and to this end, a strategy promoting equality was drawn up.
The number of school-goers in grades 1–5 has grown rapidly: in 2004, 84.2 per cent of the age group went to school, while in 2016 the figure was as high as 96 per cent. Gender equality was achieved in basic education in 2013.