Northern Future Forum: Reporting from Helsinki

Education reform in Europe – especially the Nordic countries — has produced impressive results for years, with case studies and PISA scores to prove it. So when these reformers get together to talk about the future of education, it's a discussion worth listening to. Last month, Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb hosted the Northern Future Forum. He was joined by prime ministers of the UK, the Nordic countries and the Baltic States, along with business leaders and global education experts, to discuss new ways to address common challenges.

Our own Kati Tiainen, director of business development for Microsoft Education, moderated some of that discussion as well as led a session on the The Future of Teacher Training – Bridging the Gap." Following the session Kati was able to present the outcomes to the prime ministers.

Her take-aways? Transforming higher education is of huge importance, and it must help connect learning to work/life needs. At the same time, the teaching profession must adapt to the needs of today's digital natives with better training and a greater focus on digital learning. Here are some of the highlights from the Forum:

Higher education must be transformed.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron discussed the critical need for universities to be more entrepreneurial, and to serve the needs of an increasing number of students who require a higher level of education to succeed in the 21st century workforce. Like Stubb, Cameron emphasized the importance of teaching coding to today's young people.

Education and technology are transforming the economies of Northern Europe.
State Secretary Olli-Pekka Heinonen, representing Prime Minister Stubb, noted the importance of tearing down the barriers between education institutions and the workplace, while closing the gap between traditional and digital learning. Prime Minister Stubb committed to advancing learning digitalization, as well as making coding an important part of 21st century learning.

The teaching profession must be viewed in a new way.
Denmark's Minister for Higher Education and Science, Sofie Carsten Nielsen, representing Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, noted that teacher education must be made more attractive, and at the same time, be reshaped to support the needs of digital natives.

Education must lead nations to the future.
Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg talked about the need for innovation at scale. She noted the critical role teachers play in this effort, and the need to improve both teacher quality and readiness for innovation. Like her counterparts, Solberg believes that government – and specifically prime ministers – must take the lead in affecting real change.

Microsoft is proud to play a role in powerful discussions such as these, influencing and leading educational transformation on a global scale.

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