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Me & MyCity: Finland’s miniature town where children learn to work

A look at Me and MyCity, where Finnish school children spend a day of work in a purpose-built miniature town as employees, consumers and citizens

Finland’s innovative education system is in the news a lot. Whether it’s because the country’s educators have decided to scrap individual subjects in favour of teaching by topic instead, or for their reluctance to compare schools and teachers, something other European countries have been doing for decades, and comprehensively at that. While the international reputation of its education system grows steadily, Finland’s economy continues to stall – as a result, many of the nation’s educators are eager to export Finnish learning concepts around the world, in hopes of spreading the nation’s innovative teaching strategies and bolstering the country’s economy in one fell swoop.

One of Finland's educational innovations that may soon be exported is Me & MyCity. This award-winning ‘learning concept’ sees children spend a day of work in a purpose-built miniature town as employees, consumers and citizens, learning vital lessons about entrepreneurship, economy and society. It’s based on the national curriculum and founded on the belief that an entrepreneurial mindset is a key attitude for any country’s future. Children visiting one of the eight locations across Finland might, for instance, spend the day as CEO of the post office, director at Helsinki Art Museum or a customer service assistant at a logging company, earning a virtual salary they’ll then get to spend in the town itself.

Photo from Me & MyCity’s Facebook page

Roughly 40,000 students participate in Me & MyCity every year, constituting 70% of Finland’s 12-13 year olds – a figure co-founder Tomi Alakoski hopes will rise to 100% in the coming years. He believes that ‘learning happens in a real-life context’, and during a day at the replica town, he hopes children will learn how their society functions, what taxes pay for and how to work cooperatively. The programme also aims to impart essential working skills such as public speaking, maintaining a personal bank account and how to apply and interview for a job.

Students apply for jobs of their choice during a ten-lesson preparation plan prior to visiting the 500-square-metre miniature town. On arrival, pupils must interview for their desired post – not all children get their first choice jobs, teaching them an early lesson about adapting to the working world and adjusting their expectations. Once in their new post, pupils will secure loans for their business, budget and communicate with clients and customers.

 

Me & MyCity is implemented in close cooperation with each region’s municipalities and businesses. Each site features between 15 and 20 small-scale, recreated shops and offices, representing the likes of Nokia, Samsung, Helsinki Art Museum, financial services group Nordea and plenty of local, smaller business, providing children a picture of both the local and national economy.

Alakoski was inspired by Finland’s growing number of socially excluded youth and the country's skills gap, which widens as members of the workforce retire. These are problems common throughout Europe, and Alakoski has already begun pitching to educators and politicians across the EU. During a visit to Helsinki in 2014 for the Northern Future Forum, David Cameron said he’d like to have a similar concept running in the UK. It’s easy to see how a UK version of Me & MyCity could be useful, given Britain's ever-widening gap between the public and private sectors, and substantial youth unemployment rates. Here’s to hoping 2016 sees primary school kids engage with a UK version of the innovative and universally adaptable learning concept.




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Rob Parker

Rob managed FULL FABRIC's digital communications between September 2015 and September 2017.

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