Preparing children for an uncertain future

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Saku Tuominen, creative director of HundrED, a mission from Finland to help schools change by sharing inspiring innovations in education


Saku Tuominen

The world is transforming in many areas: climate change, new technology reaching sci-fi levels and robots taking care of jobs. Often instead of on paper, we read this news from our mobiles or iPads.

As the world is changing fast, schools need to change with it.

For some reason, we often seem to approach the need for change from the wrong direction. New projects and ways of working are pushed to be tried out in schools. This may exhaust teachers, pull focus out of the right things and potentially waste valuable time that could be used to educate children.

At the same time we are fully aware that a lot of the changes the world is facing are global. It’s more than likely that someone, somewhere has already come up with solutions to make schools more suitable for future needs.

The problems might be global, but solutions sure aren’t. Since education is very local, these new approaches and practices rarely spread outside one classroom or school.

HundrED tries to tackle this by exploring tested, working innovations in K12 education (pre-school, comprehensive school and high school). The examples we seek must be innovative, address a real need and be replicable and scalable around the world.

We often hear that the Finnish education system is great, but one can’t just replicate it to other countries: it’s too tightly tied to Finnish society. We totally agree with this statement. Instead of replicating systems or structures, we want to find individual innovations that can be applied elsewhere.

This way, schools don’t need to worry about constantly testing new ideas. The innovations have already been evaluated.

When talking about educational innovations, people often let their mind wander to technology. In our opinion, innovating and updating education doesn’t mean we should put tablets in the hands of infants. New technology needs to be applied when it’s pedagogically useful: it’s a tool.

Even teaching something technical doesn’t always require the use of technology. Finland, for example, has started to teach coding to seven-year olds. That doesn’t happen by putting computers in the hands of children who don’t even know English: it happens by teaching the logic and thinking required in programming via games, play and good old pen and paper.

We want to help schools change, and innovations helping to achieve this appear in several forms. They can be tools for self-assessment to help kids take responsibility and set goals for themselves. They can be workshop concepts for teachers to help them face pupils as individuals, not just members of a certain group. They can be structural models to fight social exclusion.

The key element is that these innovations have been tested and they are working. Not all models fit every school, but many models fit several schools.


Once we have gathered the annual 100 innovations, the true work begins. We don’t want to create yet another innovation platform no-one uses – what we want is to create a service and actively spread, share and help to implement these innovations in schools.

Kids nowadays tend to live in a very international world. They might have friends from various backgrounds, relatives living abroad and they are using apps and products created far away. But in schools they are experiencing a world that is a lot more narrow.

Schools need to address this. To live in the same world as the kids do, influences and best practices should be searched all over the world. Applying them requires hard work both top-down and bottom-up – good practices and innovations often start bottom-up, but they need to be enabled by top-down management. This is why Finnish teachers continue to succeed in their work – they have quality education and knowledge combined with trust from the school administration.

A good friend of mine, Olli-Pekka Heinonen, who is head of the Finnish National Agency of Education, says education actually has two missions. The first is passing forward society’s cultural capital and knowledge. The second is providing new generations with the skills they will need in their future lives. Nowadays, with the world changing faster than ever, the importance of the latter mission has increased.

Maybe that is really what we are also doing at HundrED – trying to prepare the world for a rapidly changing future.

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