Two UNESCO Chairs to the University of Helsinki

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO has granted UNESCO Chairs to Professor Emerita Hannele Niemi and Professor Arto Kallioniemi from the University of Helsinki.

Professor Emerita Hannele Niemi has been appointed UNESCO Chair in Educational Ecosystems for Equity and Quality of Learning. Arto Kallioniemi, professor of religious education, has been granted the UNESCO Chair in Values, Dialogue and Human Rights in Education.

The UNESCO Chairs promote the objectives of the organisation through the University’s functions: they network with other professors, participate in international debate in conferences, generate new knowledge and engage in research cooperation. The dissemination of research information to various institutions in society is a central task.

Serious problems with the quality of learning

“Globally speaking, it is a great achievement that most children are going to school. A bigger problem is that in much of the world, the children are learning next to nothing in their schools. Even after four years of school, many pupils can’t read or add,” Hannele Niemi states.

The poor quality of learning is a prominent topic in the World Development Report, published in November by the World Bank. This is a problem especially in Africa and South America, but there are also vast differences within the Asian continent.

All children in the world must have equal access to high-quality teaching.

“Good teachers make a good school. If teachers have low prestige in a society, it can undermine the entire system,” says Niemi.

For the past 15 years, Niemi has travelled the world speaking about high-quality education. Finland and the University of Helsinki have a good reputation internationally. Niemi believes that this status accorded by the international community will enhance the significance of her work.

Finland’s strengths are equality, the opportunities for life-long learning and the fact that early support is available for learning difficulties. Using games to solve learning problems is also a concept unheard of in many countries.

Global citizens build a better world

Professor Arto Kallioniemi’s goal is to promote human rights and increase peaceful interaction between people.

“We want to instil among teachers an optimistic view of development – a belief that humans can develop and that humanity will do better in the future. As global citizens, we can build a world in which people work peacefully, respecting sustainable development,” Kallioniemi states.

Arto Kallioniemi is a member of the Finnish Human Rights Delegation and cooperates with the Anna Lindh Foundation, the Peace Education Institute and Unicef. He is also launching cooperation

with the Indian Institute of Teacher Education in Gujarat, India, and the North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa.

Finland now has six UNESCO Chairs

Hannele Niemi and Arto Kallioniemi are the first UNESCO Chair professors at the University of Helsinki. They begin their four-year terms on 1 January 2018. Finland has had four UNESCO Chairs: Tapio Katko, sustainable water services, Tampere University of Technology; Tapio Varis, global e-learning, University of Tampere; Heikki Lyytinen, inclusive literacy learning for all, University of Jyväskylä; and Markku Wilenius, learning society and futures of education, University of Turku. There are more than 700 UNESCO Chairs in the world.

Further information:

Professor Emerita Hannele Niemi, tel. +358 40 555 8975,

Professor Arto Kallioniemi, tel. +358 294129610,