for June, 2014
During the April-June 2014 period several events involving the SFLG and EduTech Ecosystem and related research have been organised. In addition to closely working with the MoEC in the development of the SFLG, DIGILE and the ICT Alliance have intensified cooperation with active entities in this area, in particular with the Learning Solutions Programme of Tekes, with the Chinese Education Research and Exchange Centre (CEREC) based at the University of Tampere, and with Future Learning Finland, to ensure synchronised actions towards China.
– On 10 April EduTech meetings were organised in Beijing for planning the SFLG development with MoEC, and with Beijing Normal University (BNU), the leading education university, and with BNU Publishing Group, correspondingly a leading educational publisher in China
– On 24 April 2014 the Board of Directors of DIGILE approved EduTech as a new Business Ecosystem Programme and the first company groups for the business pilots have been formed
– On 25 April the Finn-Sino Education Forum was organised by the University of Tampere/ CEREC andthe City of Tampereto identify opportunities and challenges in education cooperation between Finland and China
– On 21 May the Sino-Finnish Learning Garden planning meeting was organised at the Ministry of Education and Culture in Helsinki, involving EduTech Ecosystem and China-Finland ICT Alliance represented by DIGILE. As the main outcome a number of Pilot projects will be suggested to SFLG
– On 22 May a meeting with the companies representing the first set of EduTech pilots was held at DIGILE: ”Professional education” (transport / airport personnel training) is led by Airport College, with partners involving Context Learning Finland and Neoxen Systems. The ”Kindergarten & pre-school” pilot is led by DibiSchool involving eOasis and Solutions Space as partners
– On 22 May a reception was held in Helsinki for Mr. Eddie Ng, Hong Kong Secretary for Education, during his visit to Finland. In his speech the prime position that education has in the development of Hong Kong’s future was highlighted. Hong Kong’s progressive approach and prominent role as “education society” was highlighted and some of the opportunities for Finnish actors were identified, including the Finnish learning approach and the supporting solutions. The EduTech Ecosystem aims at establishing active cooperation also for HK markets, under the SFLG framework
– On 9 June China-Finland ICT Alliance and Beijing Normal University organised Sino-Finnish Learning Garden and EduTech Workshop in Beijing to push forward pilots in education technology and learning services as well as to focus on technologies and services research
– On 15 June a meeting was held at the East China Normal University, hosted by Prof. Zhu Zhiting, Dean of the School of Open Learning and Education, Director of Shanghai Engineering Research Center of Digital Equipment and China e-Learning Technology Standardization Committee and member of several key committees. In the meeting Prof- Zhu expressed interest in cooperating in the Sino-Finnish Learning Garden, the EduTech Ecosystem and the EduTech Research Forum. He has already been involved in cooperation discussions on Next Generation of eTextBook project of DIGILE’s Digital Services Programme (University of Jyväskylä). It was agreed that cooperation regarding the development of e-Textbooks and e-Schoolbag would be examined.
China-Finland ICT Alliance and DIGILE activities in education represent the “Learning Solutions” part of the Sino-Finnish Learning Garden (SFLG) that has been initiated by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture (MoEC) and being developed in cooperation with the Chinese Ministry of Education (MoE). Working together with the key academic, public and industry partners in both countries, this focus area aims at bringing schools, academia, national research programmes (e.g. the Academy of Finland and Tekes, the SHOKs such as DIGILE), China-Finland ICT Alliance, companies and authorities to join their efforts to co-create modern learning solutions to foster 21st century skills among students in China and Finland. It covers learning research, teacher training and learning solutions, i.e. technology, services, and content, ranging from kindergarten to primary, secondary, higher education and to vocational and professional education.
The DIGILE and China-Finland ICT Alliance activities take place in two main areas in learning solution cooperation:
I EduTech Business Ecosystem: for creating, testing, adapting and scaling innovative solutions in education, involving international business pilots together with Chinese partners. The EduTech Ecosystem is meant for companies.
II EduTech Research Forum: for universities and research institutions, planned to launch in September 2014 (at the Forum on Education Solutions for Sino-Finnish Learning Garden – ”21st Century Learning Skills”).
In addition there are ongoing discussions for setting up joint education Cloud services for R&D&I and pilots in China.
Some observations on online education and learning solutions market in China
Online education and learning solutions area is under an active development both for serving public sector and private sector educational institutions as well as the huge online (and mobile) consumer market in China.There are several major developments and education reforms ongoing or being planned that may provide joint development and business opportunities. Examples of these include the need to deliver education to the countryside, the growing demand of vocational education including in public and private sectors, and the education reforms ranging from Kindergartens to universities that will extensively leverage digital delivery (e.g. the education cloud services, the e-textbook and e-Schoolbag initiative and others).
The Chinese education tradition has emphasised performance in exams at various levels and the major goal for students is the Gaokao national university entrance exams. In June 2014 close to 10 million students participated.There is a call for renewal of the education system to emphasise more open-ended and innovation-driven approaches and the learning of “soft skills” in addition to the “hard facts” as the prevailing education approaches are not optimal for meeting the future needs.
What Finland may bring into play also in the EduTech area is the support for enabling the move towards student-centered approach, complementing the theory and textbook based materials with real-life experiences, and providing solutions for learning the so called “21st century learning skills” in social settings, encouraging experimentation and allowing for failure. The “Learning is Fun” approach promoted by many of the Finnish education experts and EduTech companies can also encourage students to become involved in social and physical activities for learning the “soft skills” and for better wellbeing.
The rapid growth of China’s Internet and mobile user base has continued and the number Internet users in China reached over 600 million by 2013. It is particularly noticeable that since the penetration of (mobile) Internet reached close to half of the population the online education market has grown even much faster. While market growth demonstrates the potential, the field is becoming fiercely competed as market positions are being built. The established players, like New Oriental, face new challengers, including the Internet e-commerce, social networking and games giants, like Alibaba and Tencent, that provide education services and apps stores. Actually, new partnerships are being formed among the players (e.g. New Oriental has teamed up with BesTV and rumoured to also join forces with Tencent).
Some recent trends in the market indicate that parents are prepared to spend even more on the education of their child as the income level has risen. In order to adopt new solutions there should be demonstrated evidence on the benefits, including not only new skills and wellbeing but also maintaining or improving performance in the mandatory tests, when dealing with curriculum topics.
The rural-urban migration continues and will be increasing demand for vocational education and adult education encouraging private investments. Working together with actors involved in the development of the vocational education and well as in the renewal of the university sector, like the development of the universities of applied sciences in China, there will be better visibility to the needs for digital solutions and possibilities to cooperate with their development and large-scale deployment. While cooperating on research and pilots related to education reforms the learning solutions (technology and services) should be considered as a part of more comprehensive Sino-Finnish solutions, involving teacher training, curriculum development so that the learning solutions are integrated, and the development of the physical and virtual (online) learning spaces, including classrooms and complete schools that enable new kinds of learning and also support wellbeing of students.
About the challenges and opportunities in the public and private sector and consumer market
Despite the rapid growth, the consumer market in digital content and services appears to be challenging for international players. For example, the entertainment content, such as movies, music, TV shows and games the models differ from those in the West. For example, in mobile apps and games, the revenues are seldom generated from the downloads but rather in-app (in-game) purchases of value adding services, such as speeding up in the game, getting to next levels, etc. Due to the sheer size of the market experiencing growing demand of learning services in areas such as English language or mathematics, there is a lot of competition, including also free offerings. However, the parents often pay for the solutions if they can be demonstrated to bring progress in learning (e.g. in passing the curriculum tests).
Taking the market environment into account in planning, the offerings and business models will be needed. With quality content and right kinds of partnerships, the consumer market is a viable area. There is a good track record of Finnish game companies to be followed by educational offerings.
In parallel, the public education and private schools markets will be addressable when the appropriate channels are established and solutions certified. Indeed, in the public sector where the solutions are part of the curriculum, the role of education authorities is essential and without being approved to the curriculum it will be difficult to bring solutions to the market. As some parts of the curriculum may be defined at the local level, it will be important to establish cooperation with authorities and education experts who can mandate and carry out special pilots at the City and District levels. In the Sino-Finnish Learning Garden, contacts have been established with Municipal Education Commissions in Beijing and in Shanghai. For a Finnish provider, one school district even in a second tier city may be a major case.
The EduTech Ecosystem – enabling business pilots in China
While there are many interesting learning area comes in Finland they often lack the resources to go alone into new markets, like China. With EduTech Business Ecosystem, representing the learning solutions of the Sino-Finnish Learning Garden, we gather together companies to form business pilots and “clusters” to better to meet the demand. In the Ecosystem the effort and risk can be shared and the creation of a more comprehensive and therefore more attractive offerings becomes possible.
More importantly, the aim is not just to enable of Finnish solutions export and localisation in China, but together with Chinese partners to develop solutions for China and Finland – and to the global learning market.”We try to get contacts for the benefit of business solutions, experimentation, implementation and business development in China. And when we put the reputation of Finland in the game, we have together with companies to ensure that we keep our promises. This is for all of us it is a positive challenge.”
Cooperation with Tekes Learning Solution programme
EduTech Ecosystem and ICT Alliance have initiated cooperation with Tekes Learning Solution programme to leverage the synergies. On 3 June Tekes Business Breakfast was organised at Finlandia Hall by the Learning Solutions Programme in cooperation with DIGILE. The meeting gathered a number of companies and organisations interested in the EduTech Ecosystem and in exploring the Chinese education market.
The programme was opened by Ms. Suvi Sundquist, Director of the Learning Solutions Programme of Tekes, followed by presentation on EduTech Ecosystem and the Sino-Finnish Learning Garden by Mr. Matti Hämäläinen, and the FORGE Service Lab by Mrs. Pia Erkinheimo, Head of Crowds & Communities, at DIGILE. The session resulted to the group of interested companies join EduTech in areas such as primary school education as well as professional education.
Sino-Finnish Learning Garden and EduTech Beijing Workshop: Continue joint efforts on education technology and learning serviceJun 12 2014
Based on the good results from April Beijing Sino-Finnish Learning Garden meeting, China-Finland ICT Alliance and Beijing Normal University organised Sino-Finnish Learning Garden and EduTech Workshop in Beijing on 9 June.
The objective is to push forward pilots in education technology and learning services as well as to focus on technologies and services research, such as mobile and ubiquitous technologies in education, learning analytics, e-book standards and gaming
Prof. Yu Shengquan, Dean of School of Education Technology and Director, Joint Laboratory for Mobile Learning: Ministry of Education of China described experiences from a model for ubiquitous learning resources. The laboratory has been built under the national guideline of “Education Information Development Plan (2011-2020)” and “MOE and CMCC Strategic Cooperation Framework Agreement”, supported by “Ministry of Education – China Mobile Research Fund”. Cooperation presentations were also given, for example, by Prof. Shu Hua, National Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning; Prof. Teng Jun, Vice Dean, Institute of International and Comparative Education; Ms. Xie Xi, International Department, Beijing Normal University Publishing Group; Dr. Wang Jun, Deputy Director, Office of International Exchange & Cooperation; Mr. Mika Tirronen, Counsellor (Science & Education), Embassy of Finland in Beijing; Mr. John Zhuang, Director of Learning, China, Rovio; Prof. Yuzhuo Cai, Higher Education Group (HEG), School of Management, Chinese Education Research & Exchange Centre (CEREC), University of Tampere; Mr. Matti Hämäläinen, China-Finland ICT Alliance, DIGILE.
A co-creative research forum on education will be launched in autumn 2014 involving active China-Finland research units for education technology and learning services cooperation with first joint pilot projects.