The Vocational Challenge of Higher Education in Finland: Developing a Virtual Polytechnic


Paivi Kristina KARKKAINEN


ABSTRACT
The Ministry of Education(htpp://www.minedu.fi.) in Finland has launched the second Information Society Strategy for the Education and Research for the years of 2000-2004, The aim of this strategy is to produce highly qualified information society with the experts on virtual education from primary education to tertiary one. In the visions of the year 2004, most of the 5,1 million finnish citizens will communicate with their own e-mail addresses and, believe or not, from grandparents to primaryschool youngsters. The public sector is fastly developing electronic services beside the private ones and there is the urgent need for information network literacy. From patent services up to tax information, different registration forms and other official services are on-line allready, electronic business needs and servises are just a small slice of the whole. The heaviest burden of all is on the higher education, on universities and vocationally oriented polytechnics, that according to expectations should implement this national strategy on their regions. The number of teacheres, lecturers and instructors working in finnish educational system is little less than 70 000. All of these have to have skills to work in virtual environment and to use digital learning materials, but it´s not enough; the production skills of digital learning material and new innovations on virtual learning is valued the most. Universities in Finland are state financed, however, the polytechnics are financed by local municipals or regional Joint Municipal Authorities, which due to the economical recession years of Finland in 1990 - 1996 are still suffering from regional development differences and lack of innovation adaptation. The training of personnel within higher education, for example in polytechnics, should be considered within regional development schemes. The region of South Carelia is located in South-Eastern part of Finland. Being part of the eastern border of The European Union and the very location of EU´s largest paper- and pulp production units, the regional South Carelia Polytechnic -located in the cities of Imatra and Lappeenranta, has naturally specialized on wood-processing industry as well as on Russian Trade. Together with the Lappeenranta University of Technology these two institutions of higher education are responsible of the implementation of the New Information Society Strategies and the innovative development of the knowledge stock of their region with about 137 000 inhabitants, besides serving the national as well as international level with the production of higly qualified employees.FINLAND

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