HEI Schools, which is offering Finnish early education to the world through a license model, seeks to provide high-standard early education to as many children in the world as possible.
“The root of the HEI Schools concept is to think big: we will consider our project a success once high-standard early education and the HEI Schools concept are accessible to as many families in terms of both cost and physical distance as something like Ikea. It’s part of our Nordic genome: leveraging volume to make a well-designed product available to as many people as possible,” says Milla Kokko, CEO of HEI Schools.
Research for commercial concepts
The University of Helsinki enables the commercial development of research into business concepts through Helsinki Innovation Services (HIS).
The pedagogical perspective of HEI Schools is based on decades of academic research on how children learn, and what is the best way to train teachers. This basis in academic studies as well as ongoing new research work are integral for the success of the HEI Schools concept, and the University of Helsinki is a founder of the company.
Comprehensive kindergarten experience
HEI Schools is the first comprehensive product intended to offer Finnish early education to the international market: a carefully designed and planned business concept, which will enable people of any nationality to offer high-standard early education according to the Finnish curriculum.
“We’re not sending Finns to run Finnish schools around the world, we’re helping local operators to run kindergartens according to the Finnish model,” says Pilvi Torsti, a founder of HEI Schools.
The way that the HEI Schools concept combines education (curriculum, learning materials, teacher training concept), design (facilities, architecture, furniture design, graphic design, toys and games) and the business plan (licensing) is unique.
The founding team features expertise from education (Professor Lasse Lipponen), educational policy (DPhil, Docent Pilvi Torsti), concept design and productisation (CEO Milla Kokko) and design (Head of Design Anne Rusanen).
HEI Schools opens doors to new markets
After its initial pilot projects, HEI Schools is now seeking growth in new markets. The HEI Schools pilot kindergarten, which was opened in September 2017 in Baotou, China, recently celebrated its first anniversary with 20 teachers and more than 100 families.
In 2018 HEI Schools units have also been established in Guangzhou, China; Melbourne, Australia; and Helsinki, and new agreements have been signed with partners in Shanghai and Chengdu, China, as well as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
“We are currently negotiating with some 10 to 15 parties in China and elsewhere on opening new kindergartens. Now that we have tested our product in several markets, we are concentrating on growth,” says Milla Kokko.
Early education pioneers
HEI Schools is seeking new partners and pilot clients among institutions that are interested in developing high-standard early education in their own market according to the HEI Schools model.
HEI Schools is hoping to find investors and funders who are aware of the rapid growth of the market and the potential yielded by the reputation of Finnish education, and can recognise the significance of product design and a scalable concept in how this growth could be exploited in Finland.
The original article was published on 9 November 2017. It was updated on 8 November 2018 with the latest news on HEI Schools.