Education export : challenges from the product, place and process perspectives in the case of Finland
1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Department of Educational Sciences and Teacher Education, Educational Sciences
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This thesis aims to map out the challenges in exporting Finnish education from three dimensions: 1) challenges in maintaining Finnish education quality and reputation; 2) challenges in adapting the Finnish education to another culture context; and 3) challenges in managing the export as an international project business. Qualitative content analysis is used as the research method. The EPA project between Finland and UAE were chosen to be the empirical case. Data is collected from online database, academic journals and articles, official documents, reports, websites and press release. Data is analyzed with theories and perspectives from both Education and Business discipline. The Resource Based View theory (RBV) is used to identify the key resources and capabilities Finland has in its education system. It is concluded that Finland has competitive resources such as unique educational knowhow, relatively sufficient financial and physical assets and highly competent teaching force; as well as the capabilities to manage, deploy and develop these assets. Nonetheless, there are a number of considerable challenges in sustaining and developing these resources and capabilities, particularly due to the economic pressure. In addition, evidence shows that many factors behind education success are beyond school control. The PEST (political, economic, socio-cultural and technological) analysis of the UAE macro environment draws a picture of the possible obstacles in the executing the EPA project and in adapting the Finnish education practice to the UAE schools. Among other things, the comparison of the governance indicators shows that there are compelling gaps in terms of rule of law and voice and accountability between the UAE and the Finnish governance. The economic analysis concludes that it is important to invest in education but even more important is how the invested resources are deployed. The socio-cultural analysis indicates that differences in power distance, gender issues, school structure and school culture can lead to challenges for fusing the Finnish education practice with the local one. The technological analysis stresses that even if technology resources are sufficient in schools, there might be a lack of competence in technology usage and development, in addition to the different attitudes and levels of comfort among teachers in technology integration. International Project Business theories suggest that project business often consist of complexity, uncertainty, discontinuity, and uniqueness. Possible challenges of the empirical case with regard to these characteristics are described; for example Finland has little experience in education export and weak skills in international business, especially due to the distinct culture in UAE, there are greater complexities and uncertainties expected. To conclude, there are enormous complexities and interrelations between and among resources and context. Incontrovertibly the success factors behind Finnish education are intertwined politically, culturally and economically with other sectors of society. It is discovered that despite all efforts in nurturing a student-centric education system in UAE, the outcome of this reform seems to be little satisfying. To cope with identified challenges and risks, it is suggested that government officers, managers and other stakeholders in decision-making position must develop their knowledge and skills to make informed and justifiable decisions during all processes involved in internationalizing the Finnish education. Education export shall be carried out with expertise from, both education and business management. Last but not least, education export must be studied through an ethical lens due to its complex and influential nature. Carried out well, education export, as a way of enabling us to learn from other education systems can equip us with tools and knowledge to better develop our education and societies.
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