Innovation hubs bring teaching technology into schools in developing countries

Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Catherine Russell visited Finland and learned about the activities of the two UNICEF Global Innovation Hubs based in Helsinki. The Learning Innovation Hub and the Innovative Finance Hub were launched early this year.

Catherine Russell and Ville Skinnari discussed with stakeholders how learning technologies could facilitate quality education in developing countries. Photograph: MFA/Konsta Partanen

A roundtable of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, UNICEF and Finnish bodies and companies in the education sector discussed how Finnish technological and social innovations could be harnessed in education and UNICEF’s work globally.

Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville hosted the roundtable, and its participants included representatives from the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finnish National Agency for Education, City of Helsinki, Nokia, Fingo, Finnfund, and the education technology company Eduten.

More and more children can go to school but they do not learn basic skills

Executive Director of UNICEF Catherine Russell says that while nearly all children in the world start at school, more than 600 million children do not learn even basic skills at school. Russell emphasised that learning should be seen as an investment in the future and not just as an expense item.

Globally, the availability of new learning technologies and solutions is highly unequal. The education sectors in developing countries need help in incorporating successfully teaching technology into local schools.

Both the public and private sectors are involved in the Global Innovation Hubs in Finland. The Learning Innovation Hub aims to distribute digital learning solutions to UNICEF partner countries and is working to develop the teaching of mathematics together with Eduten, among other initiatives. A partnership is also being planned with the Finnish Centre of Expertise in Education and Development (FinCEED) of the Finnish National Agency for Education.

The Innovative Finance Hub focuses on finding ways to influence the financial markets so that investments could be used to promote children’s rights. For example, the Hub can develop funds together with both institutional and private investors and find new ways of fundraising. The Hub’s experts are also supporting UNICEF’s work in the education sector.

Finland and UNICEF have been promoting innovation cooperation already for many years. Finland’s core funding to UNICEF was EUR 7 million last year. Of that sum, EUR 1.5 million was paid to innovations funds.