Kenyan TOTEMK partners visited Finland

The TOTEMK project is halfway through, and at the beginning of September 2022, six Kenyan partners visited Helsinki. The aim was to get together and discuss current affairs in the project. After the COVID-19 restrictions, it was a long-awaited and positive opportunity to plan and develop various aspects of the project.

During this 9-day visit, the TOTEMK project group had a lot of things on their agenda. One of the major objectives was to plan content for the fourth, and final, training package (TOT4) for the Kenyan teacher educators. The goal of the training is to perfect the participants’ understanding about socio-cultural issues to empower teachers in their work. This includes topics such as inclusion, gender issues, special needs education, and teachers' motivation. Linked to the TOT4, the team will also organize an EdTech startup event in Kenya in December 2022. Another important objective for the visit was to build and plan MOOC units, which also progressed efficiently. 

The program included a wide variety of interesting meetings and visits. One of them was the meeting with EDUFI team: Maija Airas, Head of Unit (International Higher Education Cooperation) presented the Finnish National Agency for Education, its role and tasks, and how EDUFI promotes international cooperation. At Viikki Teacher Training School, our Kenyan visitors could observe some lessons and discuss with Ilkka Laasonen, Basic Education Principal at grades 7–9, and Erja Schunk, Coordinator for International Relations. The topics covered included the autonomous role of Finnish teachers, pedagogical leadership, the Finnish school’s best practices, as well as the different types of teacher training organized at training schools. The group also enjoyed a school lunch there, also an important experience. At Laurea University of Applied Sciences, the TOTEMK project group saw many modern learning environments and learnt more e.g. about the Laurea way of teaching. Our partners visited also xEDU (accelerator working with startups that create transformative learning solutions), Science Centre Heureka, and got to hear about Finland’s history at an excursion to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress.  

At the end of the visit, the participants reflected on their experiences, and they summarized the strengths of Finnish education using these four c’s: collegiality, collaboration, commitment and communication. Working together and sharing experiences with colleagues is a very positive aspect in the Finnish education, also collaborative teaching was discussed. The Kenyans had noticed that everyone is very committed to what they’re supposed to do, there’s no place for excuses: when you are doing something, do it well. The partners contemplated that because the Finnish teacher education includes teaching practice, the education is more impactful. In addition, the visitors reasoned that using interviews in the student selection to teacher education gives good results: as the students are chosen carefully, it’s easier to select the ones that have the real interest and the qualities needed. Therefore they will more likely become passionate teachers. 

The Kenyan curriculum is still young, it can be molded. However, the reality is that some things can be implemented in another culture, some not that easily, some perhaps not at all. Continuous improvement in everything is vital, every moment is a potential learning experience. The project members agreed that it was a fruitful visit, they managed to decide, do, and plan many things. The time spent in Finland gave a lot of insights and now it’s time to digest and reflect how these insights and experiences could be translated and implemented into the Kenyan context. The work continues.