The long-term transformation of the Finnish economy stemmed from core shifts in Finland’s education system. Regionally, the decision to analyse the validity of the Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination (BSSEE) through the lens of human capital and postcolonial theories in light of male underachievement is a significant development, given that Finland has shown how a knowledge based economy can be built in a small and comparably peripheral country.
In 1993, unemployment in Finland was 20%. GDP declined 13%. Public debt spiralled out of control. Banking was in ruins. Finland’s survival strategy was to develop a National Competitiveness Policy. This accelerated the liberalization of fiscal markets, the privatization of state-owned companies and public agencies and foreign ownership. The assumption was that the facilitation of private sector innovation and reciprocal collaboration between public and private actors would be superior to traditional direct intervention and investment in broader research and development policy.
This increased investment in innovation gave rise to education policies that underscored:
- nurturing disruptive skills,
- unique school based solutions to national goals using a clear but flexible national curriculum framework,
- networking, sharing ideas and cooperation among schools,
- broad learning that gives equal value to the growth of an individual’s personality,
- building moral character, skills, ethics, and creativity,
- targeting resources and support to schools and students at risk to fail or be left behind,
- sample based student assessment, and thematic assessment of schools to inform policymaking,
- decentralization that removes bureaucratic top-down accountability policies,
- reflective self-evaluations of teachers,
- schools as centres of learning and caring rather than regular testing,
- eliminating ranking of students using test scores and
- the eradication of league tables.
Getting beyond the institutional inheritance of the Triangular Trade, requires the West Indies to scrutinize the Finnish Knowledge and Innovation Triangle. Firstly, Finnish economists validated the importance of education innovation in national policy development by focusing on better knowledge, skills, creativity, critical thinking, problem finding, problem framing and problem solving. The education system became a tool to propagate and promote innovation throughout the economy. The strong focus on multidisciplinary learning modules as periods of phenomenon-based project studies, not subject silos, contributed to the striking accomplishments of Finnish firms.
The Knowledge Economists Policy Brief No. 9 of the EU’s Expert Group on Smart Specialisation highlights that capacity building is an entrepreneurial process of discovery. It is neither the outcome of a foresight exercise nor a top-down industrial model that is chaperoned by a preconceived meta narrative. The state must discover through a simple search exercise which areas merit further activities and support, and which have declined or ceased. Stora Enso is not doing something mind-blowing like stabilizing attenuated live viruses in a rapidly dissolving film that can be administered orally as a vaccine. Stora Enso is simply manufacturing pulp, paper and other forest products.
Stora Enso is now a world leader in biocomposites, formed fibre, wood products, intelligent packaging, paperboard materials, paper, and market pulp. It has 26,000 employees in 30 countries, and is publicly listed on the Helsinki and Stockholm stock exchanges. Sales in 2019 amounted to €10.1 billion, with an operational EBIT of €1.0 billion. Alongside the shifts to its ecology of schooling, as Barbados is now contemplating, Finland also concentrated on growing and supporting specific companies like Nokia.
The second factor of the Triangle involved structural adjustments to universities and interweaving faculty with top-talent in targeted industries. These universities became the research hubs for these businesses. The third element of the Triangle consisted in triggering into action state agencies that enable invention and innovation.
The first step towards a new constellation of beliefs, tools and practices in education in the West Indies therefore begins with the grit to design a model of education that will output graduates who are entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators; people who become factors of production in themselves by introducing new products, new methods of production, creating new markets, and finding new sources of raw materials that are valued in one or more cultural settings. This shift begins with a set of fresh aims for education. Aims that prepare learners to join the rise of a creative class, for global economic citizenship, a new cognitive capitalism, cosmopolitanism and a borderless world.
A culture of innovation grows from two interrelated processes: (1) the accumulation of fulfilling social experiences regarding the beneficial impacts of innovation and (2) the nurturing by the education system of the propensity of learners to be imaginative in solving problems and the confidence in their ability to use such creativity while working on actual projects. This necessitates: (1) Forward leaning legislation, (2) Curriculum with transversal competencies (3) New aims for education (4) Shifts in assessment (5) Emphasis on ethics and aesthetics (6) Quality Assurance & Institutional Effectiveness (7) New administrative structures (8) Auditing the education estate and (9) New pedagogies.
What are schools in the West Indies trying to accomplish? How do we prepare learners for jobs that require talent in domains that are traditionally compartmentalized? Google is searching now for someone to conduct silico analyses of biological queries using statistical techniques.