HEI Schools turns the Finnish kindergarten into an export-ready package

Finnish early education has a splendid reputation abroad, which means there is demand for our expertise. A challenge to starting our early education export has been a lack of marketable concepts: individual games, books, applications or even education and consulting projects do not provide the “Finnish model” as a tangible experience.

HEI Schools, which is offering Finnish early education to the world through a franchising 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 (franchising) 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).

The first HEI Schools kindergarten open in Baotou, China

The world’s first HEI Schools model kindergarten opened in Baotou, China, in September. It employs a team of ten Chinese and five Finnish kindergarten teachers. The Chinese teachers attended five weeks of teacher training in Finland in the spring, and the training is now being continued through the co-teaching model. The building was converted to the HEI Schools facility concept, created by the Finnish architectural team Collaboratorio and MER Arkkitehdit.

 “We’re currently negotiating with 10–15 different operators in China and elsewhere on opening the next pilot facilities. The next series of HEI Schools will be opened in autumn 2018,” says Milla Kokko.

 “We also signed a letter of intent with the Chinese Academy of Sciences regarding extensive cooperation in the Chinese market.”

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.

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