Chinese elderly care teachers learn from their Finnish colleagues

A group of teachers from Chinese vocational colleges will over the course of the next year participate in training conducted by their Finnish colleagues. Finnish curricula, pedagogy, and SMART elderly care services are among the topics that they are eager to learn more about.  

In late November 2021 the first concrete step to closer cooperation within the newly-founded Sino-Finn Elderly Service Alliance was taken: A group of about 20 Chinese teachers, who train caretakers for elderly services, ventured into a year-long training organized by their Finnish teacher colleagues.  

The Finnish company Sumino that works with educational exchange between Finland and China coordinates and organizes the training.  

While China’s population is rapidly ageing, educated caretakers, specializing in elderly care is a relatively new phenomenon in the country. The first elderly service program at a Chinese university was established in 1999.   

Experiences from other countries are therefore valuable to the good 300 vocational schools in China that offer an elderly care nursing degree, as well as to the few Chinese universities that offer a bachelor degree within the field.   

Finland is – with its famous education system and SMART (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) innovations – a promising cooperation partner for Chinese educational institutions. 

Practical pedagogical tips highly appreciated 

During the first sessions, lecturers from Tampere Vocational College and Turku University of Applied Sciences introduced the Chinese teachers to the Finnish education system.  

They told how elders are taken care of in Finland, and how SMART technology is used in elderly care. Antti Martikainen from the Finnish VR company Virtual Dawn demonstrated how virtual reality applications can be used in healthcare education and other vocational education. 

As the Chinese teachers want to understand the curriculum and style of Finnish elderly care educations, their Finnish teachers teach them the same way they teach their students, Project Manager at Sumino Xu Zheng says. “The pace is, however, a little faster,” he adds. 

The attending Chinese teachers, who come from different Chinese colleges, told Xu that they have been very happy with the way the course has been going so far. They are especially enthusiastic about the many pedagogical tips and activities that they could immediately use in their own classrooms, Xu says.  

According to their feedback, the Chinese teachers are curious to see how teachers apply the Finnish pedagogy in real classroom situations, and how Finnish education institutions cooperate with real elderly care service providers. They would also like to know how Finnish nurses work with elderly citizens in real life. Last, but not least, they are interested in the use of digital technology in the elderly service sector in Finland.  

Language barriers and timetable challenges 

Although the first sessions have been a success, the project has not been without challenges.  

Due to the Covid pandemic, the training happens online. The format comes with its own challenges of sustaining the participants’ attention and keeping them active and engaged.  

Also, the language barrier can give problems, knows Xu, who acts as an interpreter at the sessions.  

Another obstacle was that all participants – teachers as well as trainees – have their own busy schedules.  

“All the Chinese participants are teachers themselves, and all the teachers of the training are teachers in Finland. All of them have their own classrooms to attend to, so it was challenging to make a schedule,” admits Xu. 

Despite the difficulties, Xu and the Sumino team managed to make a timetable that satisfied all parties. The program is extensive, consisting of 60 days of teaching in total. The sessions take place at least once a week and last for several hours. 

When the course ends in the autumn of 2022, the participants will receive a diploma, proving that they attended the course. 

More cooperation in the future 

The teacher training is the first concrete outcome of the Sino-Finn Elderly Alliance. 

Sumino is one of the initiators of the alliance, alongside Jiangsu Vocational Institute of Commerce (JVIC), and with the strong support of the Jiangsu Provincial Education Department.    

The cooperation platform consists of more than 70 Chinese educational institutions and more than ten businesses in the field of elderly care in China. The Finnish participants are Sumino, Tampere Vocational College and Turku University of Applied Sciences

When the Alliance was founded in May, it was with the goal of sharing and exchanging experiences and best practices from Finland and China. 

“The ultimate goal of the alliance is to unite all the Chinese universities or colleges that are interested in Finnish elderly service technology and education,” summarized Mr Diao Xiangzheng, head of the International Office at JVIC, in an interview shortly after the festive opening ceremony.  

Xu stresses that the ongoing training is only the beginning of the ambitious cooperation project. Joint degree programs and student exchanges are among the activities that he hopes the alliance will be able to organize in the future. 

The alliance is still open for new members, adds Xu. “We’d be happy to welcome more Finnish educational institutions, elderly service business and technology provides to further international cooperation in the field of elderly care education.” 

Feel free to contact the Finn-Sino Education Club to learn more about the Sino-Finn Elderly Service Alliance.