Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour to have you all as guests at the University of Helsinki to familiarise yourselves with our science education activities.
In the words of the Ministry of Culture and Education of Finland: “Science education means the strengthening of science competence. Competence in science is cognitive and skill-based basic knowledge acquired through education. It is also the ability and interest to acquire, process and evaluate new information and keep track of scientific developments. The knowledge, thinking and learning skills related to scientific disciplines are essential. Science education helps to ensure the population’s ability to understand science and research processes and their results, which is important for people’s general competencies. Science education encompasses all fields of study. Encouraging all children and young people to be interested in science is essential both in school and beyond. Science education also supports lifelong learning skills and goals.”
From our standpoint, our engaging science education activities in accordance with our strategy consolidate the reputation of our University as a global force, a creative and international globally attractive community-based environment for learning and top-level research, where the multidisciplinary formulation of research questions and cooperation between units increase the social impact of research. We want to be a global force and pioneer also in science education.
Since 2003, we have studied, developed and implemented science education engaging children, young people and families as well as education experts. These activities that started with natural sciences have recently spread to include almost all disciplines at the University of Helsinki.
Based on research, communality and engagement, we develop new pedagogical innovations for all kinds of learning – on the one hand, through non-formal science education activities encouraging children, young people and even entire families to engage in scientific activities and study and, on the other hand, through activities supporting the work and developing the competence of education and teaching staff. What we consider key practices in science education for children, young people and families are engagement, hands-on doing and authentic research environments provided by our University. Researchers may be excellent role models for young people planning their life.
A good example of our research related to science education is our recent study of the image of researchers held by the children participating in our science camps.
The results of our research related to science education and our development activities will not remain only on the pages of scientific journals or academic theses. All concrete pedagogical models and materials are published openly online. The outcomes will gradually spread in the field as real innovations once the education and teaching staff participating in research and development projects adopt them in their own work. Many other parties have also adopted the models and material developed in our science education activities. Even a few start-ups have been founded based on innovations created in doctoral dissertation projects. There also seems to be demand for innovations in education export.
Ever since the launch of these activities, science education activities have been closely linked with teacher training. Most science education activities for children, young people and families are implemented in practice by the University’s undergraduate students, especially those studying to become teachers, as a part of their studies. This model strengthens students’ career skills significantly and is a good supplement to the studies alongside compulsory teaching practice. We also wish to develop the connection between basic teacher training and subsequent continuing education towards a continuum supporting lifelong professional development. From the very beginning, our science education activities have been integrated into the education of our current and future teachers, for example, as a part of research and development projects.
Communal science education activities engaging children and young people are surely also the most impactful, albeit long-term, form of student recruitment. Moreover, the scientific competence of the teaching staff and their familiarity with the world of research promote student recruitment. Likewise, teaching cooperation, which has been developed for a long time with general upper secondary schools, in conjunction with amended Finnish legislation, supports the attainment of expectations set for the cooperation between general upper secondary schools and universities.
We are not working alone in science education. Instead we are engaged in varied cooperation with numerous parties both nationally and internationally. We belong to the LUMA Centre Finland network, which promotes and consolidates science education activities in various universities both in Finland and abroad. We cooperate closely with the business community as well as other actors in the education and teaching sector. Our international research and development cooperation has increased over the years.
As an example, I would like to highlight the multidisciplinary course “Global Challenges”, in which teacher trainees and young researchers from our University assist upper secondary school pupils from nearby schools in their study projects. A communal model allows everyone to learn from each other. We have also been planning to organise the course as an international summer course.
As a new initiative we have recently launched a research and development project to engage entire families in science education.
Providing solutions to global challenges is a strategic goal of our University. Climate change research at our University is among the best in the world. Indeed, climate education is one of the focus areas in our science education activities. Together with researchers in the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research, we have developed a new MOOC (Massive Online Open Course): Teachers' Climate Change Forum. To support the online course, we are planning international contact training outdoors in the Finnish summer. Climate continues to be a strong theme for us, for example, in science camps organised for children and families during the summer.
I would like to thank you for your interest in our University and our science education activities, and I wish you a very rewarding visit!