An educational approach to integrating diverse cultures in Finland and South Korea


When I first came to Finland from Korea, I experienced a type of identity loss I had never felt before. I almost felt that, with my black eyes and hair, it was no longer possible for people to see me as a primary school teacher, a doctoral researcher, and a double master’s in education, but simply and automatically as “Other” or “Foreign”. I felt, as a natural reaction to seeing foreigners in any place, people pretended not to be interested, frequently glanced at, or stared at me steadily. In most cases, young children showed more honest and curious facial expressions.

This recognition of differences means that we, all humans, are basically on the same line to learn from each other, regardless of ethnicity, religion, and cultural background. Previously in my time as a primary school teacher in Korea, teaching in a culturally homogenous classroom, I had thought that multicultural education was not something relevant to my work or life. However, through my own experiences of “otherness,” I have become increasingly curious about multicultural education in both Finland and Korea. Both countries have a history of long trends of cultural homogeneity, and both tend to score highly in global educational rankings. So how does multicultural education operate in these two countries, how do practices and policies attempt to support students, and is there something both countries can learn from each other?

Multicultural / Intercultural education in Finland and Korea

In Finland, current trends in educational research have been moving away from ‘multiculturalism’ towards ‘interculturalism’ or ‘interculturality’, which emphasizes mutual understanding and communication (Layne & Dervin, 2016). Rather than merely learning about others’ cultures, it is the interactions between groups within schools and society that plays a crucial role. Throughout Northern European history, the term ‘multicultural’ often referred to non-Western and non-white people as an opposite group, immigrantness (Hummelstedt et al., 2021). However, the changes became the starter to establish the principle of security and non-discrimination in educational policies. For example, S2 students (students with Finnish as a second language)  are entitled to a language policy that supports Finnish language development alongside the development of an individual’s mother-tongue language (THL, 2023). The preparatory education for immigrant students with little knowledge of Finnish for one year aims to develop their language skills and provide other skills for studying (City of Helsinki, n.d.; Rask, 2023). In terms of supporting mother tongue, the local government offers education in one’s mother tongue with native speakers or professional teachers in educating foreigners (The Finnish National Agency for Education, EDUFI, 2017).

Despite this Finland still struggles with educational inequities. One might be surprised to hear it, as Finland’s education systems are often highly praised, but academic achievement gaps between Finnish students and first or second-generation immigrants in Finland remain wide particularly compared to other OECD countries (OECD, 2019). Moreover, immigrant students in lower-secondary schools are three to five times more likely to experience bullying (Hummelstedt et al. 2021). According to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)’s biennial School Health Survey, gender and income differences, along with color and place of origin, are also associated with school violence. Specifically, the report noted that a lack of societal resources has a direct impact on experiences of racism, for instance, bullying can persist for years if teachers lack the time and resources to address issues and talk with students.

Korea is not without its struggles regarding multicultural education as well, despite its high global rankings in education (OECD, 2019). In Korea, we emphasize the term ‘Multicultural sensitivity education’ which refers to the attitude of openness to heterogeneous cultures and their owners (Lim et al, 2019). This is rooted in the national survey instrument, the Korean Multicultural Acceptability Inventory (KMAI) which covers adults (n=5000) and adolescents (n=5000) and consists of three sub-categories; diversity, relationships and generality, in the 3-Year Cycle Project since 2012 (MOGEF, 2012). The report plays a crucial role in multicultural education as well as integration plans and policies. However, having high multicultural acceptability scores in the survey does not meet the educational field in practice, which is much more nuanced in nature. Primarily the generality of ‘we must understand and respect cultures different from ours’ is emphasized, and this does not lead to individual willingness or action on how to create relationships, build discourse among different groups, or how to execute successful multicultural teaching practices (Seo & Yang, 2021).

Korea has maintained a single ethnic history for a relatively long time. Although we did not have independent and sequential exchanges with the world, ‘globalization’ in Korea is now a part of everyday life. 10 years ago, about 1.1% of all primary school students were multicultural students. Now, primary school students accounted for 4.2%, an increase of 1.5 times from 5 years ago and 3.3 times from 9 years ago. Yet, the use rate of daycare centers (or kindergartens) for infants and toddlers, which is a major predictor of academic achievement at school, is about 10% lower than the average for multicultural children, and low-income families often do not use institutions. In addition, the dropout rate of multicultural students is very high and often caused by difficulties in establishing relationships with friends or teachers and adapting to school life (KESS, 2022). The violence exposure rate of students with multicultural families was 8.2% as of 2018, which is relatively high considering the average rate among all students in the same year was 1.3%.


With the development of technology, transportation, and communication methods including smartphones and social media, multicultural classrooms, and societies are becoming more and more common. Therefore, if education does not provide a foundation for balanced perspectives of diverse cultures in school children and execute education in a way that strives for equity, current intercultural conflicts could even intensify as children grow up. Not addressing inequity and issues of social justice within education systems around the world will only serve to further perpetuate societal inequities and stratification. So, is there something Korea and Finland could learn from one another, and is it useful to compare these two education contexts?

As a teacher, I believe we need to support the healthy growth of students with immigrant backgrounds by supporting the learning of the local language and mother tongue languages, as this serves as a compass that helps students to find their own identity, as a person with a foreign background living in Finland. In this respect, I believe Korean education systems could learn something from Finland’s language policies. In turn, state-led standardized multicultural surveys can be useful in presenting a big picture of policymaking, and perhaps Finland in turn could find these useful. As an educational resource, students and teachers should be prepared to discuss topics such as social justice, non-discrimination action, social justice issues, and internationalization according to the level of students.

Ultimately, more research is needed on educational approaches to integrating diverse cultures into educational systems and societies and should be geared toward supporting teachers and creating more equitable outcomes for students. Both Finland and Korea have this to work on, but perhaps being open to exploring educational models from other countries can potentially provide useful insight and help illuminate these issues, not only in Finland and Korea but globally as well.

*Eunji Kim is a doctoral researcher currently at Tampere University researching teachers’ perspectives and roles in the effective implementation of mathematical communication in primary mathematics classroom with a comparative approach between Finland and Korea. She has posted several articles related to education issues on ERICK(Education Research & Innovation Center of Korea). ERICK ( is a non-profitable organization to enhance the quality of  Korean education (NPO). The articles were written in Korean, but it would be good to explore and understand common phenomena between Finland and Korea.



City of Helsinki. (n.d.). Oman äidinkielen opetus. Helsingin kaupunki. Retrieved February 14, 2023, from

Hummelstedt, I. P., Holm, G. I., Sahlström, F. J., & Zilliacus, H. A.-C. (2021). Diversity as the new normal and persistent constructions of the immigrant other – Discourses on multicultural education among teacher educators. Teaching and Teacher Education108, 1–10.

KESS. (2022). Brief statistics on Korean education-Multicultural Students. Korean Education Statistics Service. Retrieved February 13, 2023, from

Layne, H., & Dervin, F. (2016). Problematizing Finland’s pursuit of intercultural (kindergarten) teacher education. Multicultural Education Review8(2), 118–134.

Lim, S. I., Oh, Y. H., Cho, I. J., Lee, Y. M., & Lee, E. K. (2019). A Study on the Limits and Diversification of Multicultural Sensitivity Education in Elementary·Secondary School. The Journal of Cultural Exchange. Korean Association of International Culture Exchange.

Ministry of Gender Equality & Family (MOGEF, 2012). A study on multicultural acceptability in Korea.

OECD. (2019). Where all students can succeed (Pisa 2018 Results (Volume II).). OECD Publishing Paris.

Rask, S. (2023, February 14). Shadia Raskin Kolumni: Koulukeskustelussa UNOHTUU Keskiluokkaisten vanhempien vaikutus. Yle Uutiset. Retrieved February 14, 2023, from

Seo, J., & Yang, S. (2021). A Study on the Relationship of Multicultural Acceptability and Multicultural Education: Centered on Relationship. The Journal of Humanities and Social sciences 21. Asia Culture Academy of Incorporated Association.

The Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI, 2017). Perusopetukseen valmistava opetus. Opetushallitus 4:2017.

THL. (2023, January 20). Integration and inclusion. Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. Retrieved February 14, 2023, from

Sustainable food education – a way to create change

Food waste is a globally recognized problem, which connects all dimensions of sustainable development. Food consumption is responsible for a significant part of the environmental impact caused by humans (Mason & Lang, 2017, pp. 120–122). At the same time roughly one third of all food produced for human consumption ends up wasted (Gustavsson, Cederberg, Sonesson, van Otterdijk & Meybeck, 2011). Food waste also causes financial losses and is linked to social justice, such as global food security. Although famine is mainly a problem in developing countries, the need for food aid has not disappeared in more developed countries either (FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP & WHO, 2020). The Russian attack on Ukraine has also worsened and will continue to worsen the global food crisis even more.

Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash

Consumers are one of the biggest sources of food waste in developed countries. People may not even realize how much they waste food in their everyday life. Spoiled food can be easily disposed and thus, it’s out of sight and out of mind. In order to reduce the consumer-related food waste it is important to increase consumers’ knowledge and skills as well as create a culture that supports attitudes and values that encourage to fight against food waste. Previous studies have highlighted the importance of education in supporting sustainable culture related to food and food waste (e.g. Elorinne et al., 2020; Pollari et al., 2021; Ripple et al., 2017; Sekki, Autio, Lindblom & Niva, 2021). One of the goals of sustainable food education is transformative learning where the learner’s emancipatory and critical understanding are developed (e.g. Smith, 2017; Pollari et al., 2021). Basic education therefore plays a key role in providing the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that enable children and young people to better respond to food-related challenges.

In my doctoral dissertation (Pollari, 2022) I examine the current state of the pedagogy of sustainable food education related to food waste in Finnish basic education. Pedagogy is approached using textbook analysis, as textbooks are still the most used teaching and learning materials and they have also shown to influence teaching. Textbooks were chosen from home economics, geography and biology subjects. Sustainable food education is especially emphasized in home economics education. Geography and biology textbooks were also included in the analysis, as food waste is related to the curricula of these subjects as well.

The textbook analysis is based on KVP model (Clément 2006) in which it’s assumed that learning occurs between the interaction of knowledge, values and practices. In the analysis the contents of textbooks were approached from their 1) food waste-related content (knowledge), 2) value orientation given to food waste in relation with sustainable development (values) and 3) pedagogical text styles were used in presenting the food waste-related issues (practices).

The research revealed that food waste is covered the most comprehensively in home economics and least in biology textbooks. Analysed textbooks typically build the understanding of food waste from the subject’s curriculum. The textbooks don’t integrate the different dimensions of sustainable development – home economics textbooks emphasize economic and ecological meanings, while biology and geography textbooks highlight social and ecological sustainability. The most of the pedagogical text styles used in the textbooks do not necessarily motivate the learner to change their food waste behavior or guide the learner to a critical examination of it. The textbooks pedagogical potential which supports transformative learning could be increased for example, by favoring text styles that support learning, enhancing and expanding the perspective and diversifying the knowledge base so that the textbooks take into account the various dimensions of sustainable development and the value orientation connected to them. (Pollari, 2022.)

I believe that sustainable food education can support children and young people to become conscious and skilled citizens who truly appreciate food. However, if we really want to make difference and reduce the amount of food waste we can’t just shift responsibility for the change in consumer culture to children and young people. That is why: it is time to look in the mirror and see the change.

Milja Pollari, PhD

younger researcher

University of Eastern Finland


Clément, P. 2006. Didactic transposition and the KVP model: conceptions as interactions between scientific knowledge, values and social practices. Proceedings of ESERA Summer School 2006, IEC, Braga (Portugal), 9–18.

Elorinne, A-L., Eronen, L., Pollari, M., Hokkanen, J., Reijonen, H. & Murphy, J. 2020. Investigating home economics teachers’ food waste practices and attitudes. Journal of Teacher Education for Sustainability 22(1), 82–96.

FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP & WHO. 2020. The state of food security and nutrition in the world 2020. Transforming food systems for affordable healthy diets. Rome, FAO.

Gustavsson, J., Cederberg, C., Sonesson, U., van Otterdijk, R. & Meybeck, A. 2011. Global food losses and food waste: Extent causes and prevention. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Mason, P. & Lang, T. 2017. Sustainable diets. How ecological nutrition can transform consumption and the food system. Oxon, UK: Routledge.

Pollari, M., Hokkanen, J., Eronen, L., Reijonen, H., Murphy, J., Autio, M. & Elorinne, A-L. 2021. Perusopetuksen opettajat ruokakasvattajina – kohti kestävää ruokakäyttäytymistä edistäviä opetus- menetelmiä. Ainedidaktiikka, 5(3), 5–27.

Pollari, M. 2022. Perusopetuksen kestävä ruokakasvatus – ruokahävikki kotitalouden, maantiedon ja biologian oppikirjoissa. Publications of the University of Eastern Finland, Dissertations in Education, Humanities, and Theology No 183. University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu.

Ripple W.J., Wolf, C., Newsome, T.M., Galetti, M., Alamgir, M., Crist, E., Mahmoud, M.I., Laurance, W.F. ym. (15,364 allekirjoittanutta tutkijaa 184 maasta). 2017. World scientists’ warning to humanity: A second notice. BioScience, 67 (12), 1026–1028.

Sekki, S., Autio, M., Lindblom, T. S., & Niva, M. 2021. ”Koko ruoanvalmistusprosessi on täynnä ilmastotekoja!” – Kotitalousopettajien näkemyksiä perusopetuksen kestävästä ruokakasvatuksesta. Ainedidaktiikka, 5(3), 28–50.

Smith, M. 2017. Pedagogy for home economics education: Braiding together three perspectives. International Journal of Home Economics, 10(2), 7–16.

Political emotions affect the future of democracy –  how should education respond?

Illustration: © Karin Eremia

What are political fear, anger, hope and compassion, and why should they be discussed in the context of education? In this blog post, I revisit my PhD study, in which I tackled these questions from the viewpoint of educating for a democratic way of life and touched upon movements that have been successful in mobilising young people politically in recent years, such as #BlackLivesMatter and #FridaysforFuture. My central argument is that political emotions play a significant role in the establishment of democratic culture and in the political mobilisation of young people, which is why they should be discussed in education.

About the study

My PhD study scrutinized a world-known philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s work on political emotions – a perspective that had not been comprehensively examined in the field of education. The study explored both the tensions and the possibilities involved in education for political emotions, especially with respect to constructing collective political aims and addressing various global social and political challenges.

The study combined educational sciences and political philosophy. The work comprised three interrelated studies that approached the relevance of Nussbaum’s work to education from different angles through various real-life examples. Through the studies, Nussbaum’s work was discussed in three frameworks of political education: global citizenship education, democratic citizenship education, and human rights education.

Why talk about political emotions now?

”Polarisation and global challenges in liberal democracies increase the need for research on political emotions.”

Political emotions such as fear, anger and compassion have been recently observed in connection with the war in Ukraine. What is more, in recent years, the political culture of liberal democracies has become increasingly polarized. At the same time, societies are faced with complex shared global challenges, including climate change or the Covid-19 pandemic, for which constructive solutions should be sought together. Perhaps partly for these reasons, academic research on the significance of emotions in political mobilisation has increased in recent decades. 

However, as I see it, emotions are not discussed in education or related research to a sufficient degree. This is strange, considering that education plays a significant role in establishing and supporting a democratic lifestyle.

What are political emotions?

“Political emotions are significant, as they tell us something about our values and can induce people and groups to act.”

In my research, I view emotions as cognitive judgements and as value judgements. That is to say, emotions are about something and they are always evaluative, meaning that the object of emotion is something that has some significance to the person experiencing the emotion (e.g. Nussbaum, 2001).  The cognitive element of emotions suggests that they are intertwined with the way we receive information about the world and with the way we communicate information to others.

What is ‘political’ about ‘political emotions’? I draw attention to the distinction between private and individual, on the one hand, and public and collective emotions, on the other (e.g. grief over a lost loved one as a private emotion vs. climate anxiety as a political emotion). I view political emotions as public, both in terms of their object and in terms of their expression. Furthermore, I wish to highlight that emotions are associated with political potential: that is, emotions can motivate the pursuit of social change and transformation, which can take a variety of forms, including voting, advocating for policy, activism, or sharing information about injustices on social media. Also, it should be noted that I understand the ‘political’ in political emotions in its broadest possible form, describing the public life and the public realm and not as restricted to, for instance, existing political institutions, party politics or voting. 


”Emotions should be thoroughly understood in all their ambiguities and possibilities to make them useful to the culture of democracy.” 

My PhD study offered several findings, starting with the problematic consequences that negative political emotions (fear and anger) can have for the democratic decision-making and education policy. Furthermore, the political, in citizenship education, should be understood as a collective striving toward shared goals, supported by constructive political emotions, rather than as a conflictual relation between ‘us’ and ‘them’. The study also took the first steps in envisioning a ‘Nussbaumian pedagogy’, suggesting different ways in which political compassion and narrative imagination could be reflectively practised in classrooms when teaching and learning about human rights issues, laying down a sustainable foundation for global democratic citizenship.

I argued that a well-functioning democracy should establish and pursue at least some shared political goals, and that political emotions, such as hope, compassion and trust, engender the desire and motivation to commit to these shared goals. Thus, political emotions become pertinent also for education. Education has an essential role in learning to adopt democracy and in the dismantling of political and social challenges, such as racist discrimination. 

However, not all political emotions are necessarily constructive and beneficial to democracy; emotions need to be analysed and understood, and critically assessed in today’s polarised social and political environment, so that they can be utilised in educating people for a democratic way of life. Therefore, I urge that emotions, their different manifestations as well as potential benefits and harms, should be introduced both to public and school discourse.

As a whole, my PhD study offered new perspectives and ways to explore the relationship between politics, emotions and education. The present times have been considered by many as exceptionally dark, so I have strived to articulate much needed suggestions for education which are constructive and hopeful.

Iida Pyy

PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher at DEMOPOL project

Faculty of Educational Sciences

University of Helsinki


Twitter: @iidapyy

Researcher profile:


The PhD thesis Evolving Emotions: The relevance of Martha Nussbaum’s theory of political emotions in Education was presented for public discussion at the University of Helsinki, on the 27th of May, 2022. The thesis earned distinction, and its summary can be accessed here.

The PhD thesis was based on the following original publications that are available online:  

Pyy, I., Leiviskä, A., & Mansikka, J-E. (2020). Contesting the Politics of Negative Emotions in Educational Policymaking: A Ban on Asylum Seekers’ School Visits in Finland. Global Discourse, 10(2–3), 371–390.

Leiviskä, A., & Pyy, I. (2020). The Unproductiveness of Political Conflict in Education: A Nussbaumian Alternative to Agonistic Citizenship Education. Journal of Philosophy of Education. 55, 577– 588.

Pyy, I. (2021). Developing political compassion through narrative imagination in human rights education. Human Rights Education Review, 4(3) 24–44.   

Who am I?

I am Iida Pyy, a Postdoctoral Researcher of the DEMOPOL project in the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki. Before my postgraduate studies, I studied at the University of Oulu and the University of Melbourne, Australia, with intercultural education as my major subject. Previously, I have worked as a bilingual class teacher and a special class teacher as well as at UNICEF Finland. In addition to research, I am involved in activities associated with antiracism and social responsibility. 

Digesting the ANGEL Summer School on Researching Global Education and Learning

The first ever International Summer School for early career global education researchers was organized by the new UNESCO Chair on Global Citizenship Education in Higher Education at the University of Bologna, the ANGEL network and Global Education Network Europe (GENE). Among the 32 young researchers from universities all over Europe – with many participants originating from countries outside Europe – I was happy to be the one representing Finland!

In this post, I offer a few of my reflections and tips from the Summer School week.

Tip 1: Global Education Digest

The theme of the summer school was doing systematic literature reviews. Three days were filled with lectures and discussions around the terminology of global education/learning/citizenship, databases and conducting literature reviews. At the end of each day, in groups we had an in-depth look on the Global Education Digest which is a bibliography of academic publications that the ANGEL network produces annually. The 2021 version included already eight languages (English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Polish, Italian and French).

As a first take-away from the Summer School, I would recommend anyone doing research on global citizenship education– or just interested reading the latest research for their work – to have a look at the Digest. I browsed through the 2021 Digest on the train to Bologna and added dozens of publications onto my reading list.

The introductions of different language versions of the Digest are also translated into English. It is interesting to read how the terminology on global education differs between countries and cultural-historical contexts. For example, check the Portuguese introduction to understand why “planetary citizenship” has become the preferred term over “global citizenship” in Brazilian research.

Tip 2: Mapping your own journey to global education

One of the keynote speakers, Annette Scheunpflug from the University of Bamberg first shared her own story, and then asked us to map our journeys in global education.

  • How did I end up where I am now?
  • Where did my journey start?
  • What kind of global learning have I been involved in?
  • How has this journey affected my understanding of the conceptual field?

We were asked to make Venn diagrams of our own paths, share them with the whole group and tell our stories in smaller groups. This was not only a wonderful icebreaker exercise, but useful for establishing our positions in the vast field of global education.

Some of our Venn diagrams are featured below.

In her keynote, Annette reminded us that we are dealing with fuzzy terms in global education. Global learning, sustainable development, global citizenship education or intercultural learning have various meanings – and power dynamics around the definitions of the terms should be clear to everyone involved in these fields.

It would have been beneficial for us to have much more time for this kind of informal sharing of each others’ research, methods, personal and professional stories. However, the schedule at the Summer School was extremely packed with speakers and group work from 9am to 6pm with only short breaks in between. Our energy levels to have academic discussions in the evening were further affected by the unusually hot weather (+34 on average, also inside many rooms at the venue). It was only at the very end of the Summer School when we were collecting contact details that I saw participants’ interests including topics such as epistemologies of the South, ecofeminism, critical pedagogy or decolonial theories, among others.

The final Summer School day was spent at a conference in the centre of Bologna: the hall is exquisitely beautiful, but was VERY hot (probably over 40 degrees inside). I would not have survived without a fan.
Photo: Riikka Suhonen.

Tip 3: Consider travelling on land instead of flying, even from Finland

Practicing what you preach can be tough: you know, acting as a responsible global citizen for more sustainable futures etc. Finland is not in the easiest geographical location to avoid flying. Yet, I was able to travel with ferry/train from Finland to Bologna (actually going to Manchester first, using the Interrail pass for the route Helsinki-Turku-Stockholm-Hamburg-Manchester, and then Manchester-London-Paris-Torino-Bologna). Many participants coming from countries much closer to Italy had flown to Bologna. Some statistics from my journey below:

Although it might be challenging for family, work or other practical reasons to organize travelling on land – as it takes at least two days to get to Italy from Finland, for example – it is worth at least to consider it. Interrail pass and booking seat reservations worked great for me. Offline work on trains is very comfortable, much more so than on airplanes. Due to time reasons, I did however fly back home, and the experience at the packed airport of Bologna with all flights delayed or cancelled (except mine) was not a pleasant one.

This is also a call for universities and other funding entities: please ensure more generous travel grants for those who want to and can travel ecologically. My participation to the Summer School was made possible by the Alfred Kordelin Foundation and I am very grateful for their support.  

Finally, here is our key reading list for the Summer School. Many of them are already well-known and widely used, but perhaps there are also new ones to the blog readers!

  • Bourn, D. (2020). (Ed.) The Bloomsbury Handbook of Global Education and Learning. London: Bloomsbury
  • Goren, H. & Yemini, M. (2017). Global citizenship education redefined. A systematic review of empirical studies on global citizenship education. International Journal of Educational Research, 82, 170-183.
  • Hartmeyer, H. and Wegimont, L. (eds) (2016) Global Education in Europe Revisited. Munster: Waxmann.
  • Oxley, L., and Morris, P. (2013). Global Citizenship: A Typology for Distinguishing Its Multiple Conceptions. British Journal of Educational Studies, 61 (3). 301–25.
  • Pashby, K., da Costa, M., Stein, S., & Andreotti, V. (2020). A meta-review of typologies of global citizenship education. Comparative Education, 56(2), 144–164.
  • Shultz, L. (2007). Educating for global citizenship: Conflicting agendas and understandings. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 53(3), 248–258
  • Tarozzi, M. and Torres, C. A. (2016). Global citizenship education and the crises of multiculturalism. London: Bloomsbury.

The Summer School event report and evaluation are available at A more visual report of the event can be seen below in the compilation of short video clips and photos from the week!

Compilation of video clips and photos from the Summer School by the organisers: UNESCO Chair in Global Citizenship Education in Higher Education.

Riikka Suhonen is a doctoral researcher in the Doctoral Programme in School, Education, Society and Culture (SEDUCE), Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Helsinki. In her PhD research, she examines how global citizenship education is understood and enacted in the context of upper secondary vocational education and training in Finland.

riikka.suhonen (at)
Twitter: @Af_riikka

Photos and video: Summer school organisers / UNESCO Chair in Global Citizenship Education in Higher Education.

Conceptual reflections in Finnish Educational Research Association of Education 2021

The 2021 FERA Conference was organized remotely 25-26.11.2021. GERIF organized a thematic group with a topic “Global education in advancing local and global wellbeing / Globaalikasvatus paikallisen ja maailmanlaajuisen hyvinvoinnin edistäjänä”. The group provided an opportunity for researchers in global education to present current research. Two sessions included six papers, all presented in English.

The first of the sessions was more concerned on perspectives about teachers’ role in advancing global education and the second more concerned on students’ perspectives. All six provided a different answer to the challenges of educating interdisciplinary subjects in different school systems and levels, from teacher education to vocational education. Possibly because of the challenges in different sites, many papers discussed what are the relevant concepts and perspectives through which we should approach global education. Interestingly, almost all of the papers included a reference to postcolonial theory, which therefore seems to be a common interest among global education researchers in Finland now.

This year we’ll see in Oulu! It seems, that the debate about the relevant concepts will continue there!

Please look through abstracts. They can all be accessed here  Abstracts.pdf

Book review: The Bloomsbury Handbook of Global Education and Learning (2020)

Bourn, D. (Ed.). (2020). The Bloomsbury Handbook of Global Education and Learning. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Research on global (citizenship) education is growing. This is clearly demonstrated in the nearly 500 pages of The Bloomsbury Handbook of Global Education and Learning, published in 2020.

Douglas Bourn, the editor of this landmark book is a Professor of Development Education, Director of Development Education Research Centre at the University College London, and the Chair of the Advisory Board for Academic Network of Global Education Researchers (ANGEL).

In this blog post, I want to highlight some chapters of the book that could interest particularly researchers and practitioners based in Finland. I have divided them under three good reasons to read the handbook: 1) Getting to know the diversity of global education; 2) Acquainting yourself with the latest research; and 3) Positioning yourself in the field of global education.

1.      Get to know the diversity of global education

The Handbook represents the diversity of global education both thematically and geographically. Through Bourn’s introduction and conclusions, the reader gains a wide overview of the diversity and historical background of GE approaches. Bourn describes how the values of social justice, equity and human rights are central, but also Freirean critical pedagogy, dialogue and social action together with post-colonial and post-structural thinking continue to influence the current GE research.

The book is divided into six themes: 1) Challenges for Today and Tomorrow; 2) Theoretical Perspectives; 3) Impact of Policies and Programmes; 4) Global Perspectives in Higher Education; 5) Global Education and Learning within Schools; and 6) Learning and Experience and Being Global Citizens.

The 33 chapters of the handbook cover research from all over the world: Austria, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, Poland, Spain, Tobago, Taiwan, South Africa, United States, UK, and Zanzibar.

For Finnish researchers, an interesting chapter to start could be the review “Global Education Research in Finland” by Elina Lehtomäki and Antti Rajala. Using the five dimensions of GE from the Maastricht Declaration as the basis, they note how GE research in Finland has focused on intercultural education and education for sustainable development and much less on development education, human rights education or education for peace and conflict prevention.

Another chapter focuses on higher education students in Finland: Hanna Posti-Ahokas, Josephine Moate and Elina Lehtomäki write about the need to challenge students’ understanding of development and global responsibility in “How Do Higher Education Students Negotiate Global Responsibility in Education?”.

A screenshot from Elina Lehtomäki’s presentation on the book chapter on GE research in Finland at the EERA Conference symposium on global education in September 2021.

2.      Acquaint yourself with the latest research

The Handbook includes chapters both by well-known, established global education researchers (e.g. Bourn, Andreotti, Scheunpflug) as well as emerging PhD researchers sharing their latest results.

Those working on teacher training may find Claire Bennett’s chapter “Continuing Professional Development of Teachers in Global Learning: What Works?” valuable. Bennett argues for time and ongoing support for teachers instead of one-off training events. Teachers value collaboration within or between schools with peers, thus creating the feeling of being “in it together”. Teachers also appreciate regaining a sense of purpose and developing their knowledge and pedagogy as a result of CPD, and call for follow-up sessions to reflect on the practical implementation of their learning.  

Organisations dealing with international volunteering, internships or study exchanges may gain insights from Mags Liddy’s chapter “Apprenticeship of Reflexivity: Immersive Learning from International Volunteering as Teacher Professional Development”. Liddy focuses on Irish teachers volunteering for short periods in Indian schools. She highlights that thorough preparation and questioning one’s own practice reflexively are needed for the international experience to become transformational. According to Liddy, affective moments of learning, having to deal with uncomfortability and reassessing Western privileges are key for global learning to take place.

3.      Position yourself in the field of global education

The range of GE can be overwhelming: Where do you locate yourself in this vast field? The diversity of different disciplines, levels of education and geographical locations is well represented in the Handbook.

For example Madeleine Le Bourdon’s chapter “The Role of Informal Spaces in Global Citizenship Education” explores non-formal educational summer camps and how informal spaces can provide “the time and space lacking in structured learning environment, as well as the opportunity for peer and independent learning” (Le Bourdon, 2020).

This case of informal learning reminds me of a task given to university students on the course “Education and Global Justice”. One group chose Extinction Rebellion Finland from the list of possible organisations and interviewed some of its members. The XR volunteers were extremely surprised to be even considered as “global educators”, although they had been conducting informal school visits, and were engaged in a global, democratic climate justice movement at the community level. Critical, advocacy-oriented GE can materialize in this kind of more self-educative form of ‘Bildung’ among adults. GE in a kindergarten would look very different: there is no one right way of doing global education, and this is well conveyed throughout the Handbook.  

How to read the Handbook?

After reading around a dozen of the chapters, I can see many potential usages for this Handbook. We have included some chapters as course literature in the “Education and Global Justice” course organized for the Changing Education Master’s students at the University of Helsinki.

The book can also be used for self or group study, focusing on the themes of your particular interest. For instance, people working on GE projects may find chapters on impact, or on teachers’ CPD beneficial when designing new initiatives around GE.

It could be fruitful to pick a chapter to read with colleagues or peers from workplaces or networks, and discuss the text in a reading circle. Bringing diverse thoughts together might even create new ideas for future research or practice of global education!


Riikka Suhonen
Doctoral researcher in the Doctoral Programme on School, Education, Culture and Society (SEDUCE)
University of Helsinki
riikka.suhonen (at)

Twitter: @Af_riikka

“I felt I had no other options but to do something” – the transformative moment in climate agency formation among Finnish youth

The climate movement of youth is one of the most visible phenomena of our time in civil society. Youth have claimed the public sphere in order to address the climate crisis and the urgency of actions needed. The action and resistance practised by youth has evoked public discussion concerning not only the climate crisis, but also the political agency and citizenship of youth in the era of crisis. My master’s thesis “We have a say, we must act, now – youth as climate active citizens” (Ahola 2021) examines youth climate action from the perspective of political agency. The study focuses on the formation process of agency, in addition to which the supportive and preventive factors of agency are explored. Drawing on qualitative interviews with 12 Finnish youth aged between 15 and 19, the study also contributes perspectives on global education and global citizenship.

The Maastricht global education declaration (2002) states: “global education is education that opens people’s eyes and minds to the realities of the world, and awakens them to bring about a world of greater justice, equity and human rights for all”. In the interview data, descriptions of eyes opening and awakening to the reality of the climate crisis and its social consequences were identifiable (cf. climate realization, Pihkala 2019). For most of the youth, the process of climate active agency formation took the first steps in late 2018 followed by the IPCC report and global school strikes. The interviewees discussed about a moment of awakening, where their way of seeing the world and being in the world was transformed for good. Something that they cared for – whether it was nature, their future, the wellbeing of distant others, etc. – was threatened.

Before that I felt I had been in the dark, no one really talked about climate change. Some tiny matters at school sometimes, but one couldn’t understand the real severity of it. The increasing news led me to find out more… I was reading some studies. I don’t remember how far I read the report, quite far, and then… It made me feel terrible. (Roosa, 18)

As Roosa mentions above, becoming climate active happened outside of formal educational settings. For the youth, e.g. school was seen as a place where growth for political engagement was predefined and restricted instead of creating space for youth-led action. The moment of awakening was a rather self-educative experience, as the youth would not only get to know about, but feel the meaning of being connected to the world and understand their place – role, responsibility and lifestyle – in it. Questions of guilt, justice and moral responsibility or obligation stemmed from the understanding of the climate crisis as a social threat causing suffering both close and distant. For the youth, realizing they had to and they could do something in order to mitigate the climate crisis opened up and extended their political agency, and changes in individual behaviour, together with joining climate active collectives, followed.

I see the climate realization of youth as a counteraction to social inertia (Brulle & Norgaard 2019), as socially constructed silence around the topic of climate crisis begins to crack. Youth among other members of the public were faced with the uncomfortable reality of the climate crisis, caused by the unsustainable way of living. The IPCC report, school strikes, media attention and public discussion created a moment of crack (see Holloway 2010) by shedding light on the status quo. A moment of crack forges a space for saying no to business-as-usual, and saying yes to bringing about change. Saying no and yes by dissenting from the business-as-usual views, together with unconventional practices, may create disturbance, conflict and rebellion – both at individual and collective level of thinking, feeling and doing. But saying no and yes is first and foremost an act of care and an antidote to indifference and apathy. That is why moments of crack are a window of opportunity for the growth towards active and caring global citizenship.

Paula Ahola

Ahola graduated from social sciences in May 2021 with major in social pedagogy. Her master´s thesis is linked to Pedagogy of Concrete Utopias -project.


Ahola, Paula (2021) We have a say, we must act, now – youth as climate active citizens. Master´s thesis. University of Eastern Finland. Https://

Brulle, Robert J. & Kari Marie Norgaard (2019) Avoiding cultural trauma: climate change and social inertia. Environmental Politics. Https://

Holloway, John (2010) Crack Capitalism. London: Pluto Press.

Pihkala, Panu (2019) Mieli maassa? Ympäristötunteet. Helsinki: Kirjapaja.

The Maastricht Global Education Declaration (2002) Https://

A metaphorical perspective on digital storytelling

In a study about digital storytelling as a metaphor, I discussed the term as a phrase where the noun (storytelling) is modified by the adjective (digital) to designate the target domain of the utterance. According to metaphor theorists (e.g., Lakoff 1992, Lakoff and Johnson 1980, Ricoeur 1978, Steen 2011), a metaphor occurs when we talk about something by means of something else and, therefore, a stretch or twist is required for sense making. This metaphorical twist involves a movement to a target domain (in this case: telling stories) to explain what it means, for instance, to integrate digital technologies into pedagogical practice, nowadays.

The sense descriptions of ‘storytelling’ in the dictionary (Oxford English Dictionary) involve both traditional and contemporary notions of telling or writing stories. These descriptions point to the medium, or the channel, used to communicate the story, with illustrative examples that refer to the hero/character as an integral feature of tales, myths and legends, but also personal narratives, political commentaries and evolving cultural norms through mainly visual technologies.

In oral storytelling, the communicative event involves a dialogue between a speaker and a hearer, where something is expressed and communicated to another. This is a shared dialogical experience for mutual understanding and reciprocal recognition. To this effect, the speaker produces an experience for the hearer in which the latter recognizes the intention of the former. This means that to understand the meaning of the dialogue is the same as to understand what the speaker means. To resolve misunderstandings, the speaker and the hearer can ask each other questions.

Can oral storytelling be another aspect of the metaphorical digital storytelling? It can certainly be. Current pedagogical practices with online platforms (e.g., Zoom, Teams etc.) with plenary sessions and group work are manifestations of dialogical experiences with opportunities for immediate responses, on-the-spot questions for clarifications, shorter and longer turns, and so on. The communication, therefore, and how shared understanding is constructed heavily depends on the co-presence of interlocutors (i.e., in a pedagogical setting, the teachers and the students).

In written storytelling, on the other hand, the story can take a life of its own, as the meaning is no longer dependent on co-presence. In this way, the story must be interpreted in the absence of a speaking subject or a shared dialogical situation that acts as common reference. Therefore, the meaning of the author and the meaning of the written story may or may not coincide.

The difference here is that while the shared dialogue mediates oral storytelling, it is the different forms of emplotment that mediate written storytelling. The participants in a group work discussion online, for instance, need to establish a joint understanding to complete a task. The way this blogpost, is received and interpreted, however, can very from reader to reader, which -as well- can be different from the author’s intended meaning.

The narrative of the written expression, therefore, differs from that of the spoken interaction, not only in structural terms (i.e., more or less spontaneous, more or less elaborated linguistic expressions etc.). As well, it differs in terms of immediacy (i.e., how much time is given for sensing the plot, interpretation etc.) and purposefulness. Evidently, the synchronous discussions and group work sessions can serve well when the purpose is to explore a thematic area. But when it comes to deeper reflections and understandings, the asynchronous mode of storytelling in the form of, e.g., reading/writing/commenting on etc. blogposts, seems to be a better fit.

Obviously, it is a complicated situation with digital storytelling that becomes even more complex when considering its multiple modes of expression through different types of symbols (i.e., not only linguistic) and multiple forms of media (e.g., video, audio, audio-visual etc.).

In this sense, ‘digital storytelling’ as a 21st century metaphor that signifies mapping of two domain areas in the meaning making process might not be enough to describe the multiple dimensions of the phenomenon. In such mapping, ‘digital’ signals the comparison between the domain of technology and that of telling stories. This mapping however is a dichotomy. In addition to the two-domain approach (characteristic of the contemporary theory of metaphor) and its expression though language (which is the focus of deliberative metaphor theory), digital storytelling is multimodal.

A new perspective is therefore needed to approach in a dynamic way the essence of contemporary digital storytelling.

But let’s discuss this new perspective in the next blogpost.

Stay tuned!

This post was initially published on the Pathways to scholarship blog.

GERIF creates space to discuss Global education research at the Finnish Educational Research Conference

The GERIF network has taken shape as a special interest group (SIG) of the Finnish Educational Research Association (FERA). The position as a SIG gives global education research visibility as an independent research field and helps interested researchers to present their work to an engaged audience.  

The 2021 FERA conference provided an opportunity to invite global education researchers to present their work in a thematic group on global education. The call was aligned with the general conference theme Sustainable education – sustainable future to focus on research on global perspectives and responsibility in creating sustainable futures. 

The call for proposals invited papers on topics of teaching and learning about how global and local sustainable development are connected.  

Following the Maastricht declaration, the call was welcome to presentations dealing with  Development Education, Human Rights Education, Education for Sustainability, Education for Peace and Conflict Prevention and Intercultural Education. Presentations may concern one or some of the following questions: What are the tasks of global education in promoting sustainable futures? What are the means and opportunities of global education in building of sustainable futures? How do teachers and students critically reflection their own activity in promoting sustainable development goals? How can we educate for responsibility and how responsible is the conduct of schools and communities of learners? What new opportunities are there in learning and education for global cooperation? What does addressing global and local contexts add to learning and sustainable futures? How are global and local responsibility connected in teaching and learning? What is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global learning? How can we develop virtual international cooperation as part of teaching and learning?

Picture: Soili Rinne

A total of 6 papers were presented in the two Zoom sessions of the SIG on 15 and 16 December. Abstracts 

Antti Kylänpää: Empowerment in human rights education: a thematic analysis of adult students’ answers

Inkeri Rissanen and Elina Kuusisto: New approach to studying teachers intercultural competencies: investigating the role of implicit theories of malleability

Heidi Layne and Siao See Teng: Developing intercultural mindedness through an experiential learning activity – case Singapore?

Riikka Suhonen: ”Kyllä amiskin voi olla sivistynyt” ‒ globaalin kansalaisuuden rakentuminen tulevaisuuden ammatillisessa osaamisessa

Antti Rajala, Pihla Soinnunmaa, Emma Kurenlahti, Anu Tasajärvi and Hannele Cantell: Nuorten kansalaisvaikuttamisen edistäminen konkreettien utopioiden pedagogiikan avulla / Fostering students’ active citizenship through a pedagogy of concrete utopias

Marja-Leena Juntunen and Heidi Partti: Taiteidenvälinen työskentely osana globaalikasvatusta: opetuskokeilu aineenopettajankoulutuksessa

The Annual meeting of the SIG was convened on 16 December in connection with the conference. Here are the highlights:

  • Professor Douglas Bourn (UCL) introduced the newly published Bloomsbury Handbook on global education and learning containing contributions from several GERIF members. 
  • Global education specialist Anna Kivimäki-Pelluz from Fingo presented key findings from the MFA’s Evaluation of Development communications and global citizenship education project funding
  • Selection of a new GERIF coordination group for 2021: Antti Kylänpää (chair), University of Tampere; Anna Kivimäki-Pelluz, Fingo;  Hanna Posti-Ahokas, University of Helsinki;  Riikka Suhonen, University of Helsinki; Oona Piipponen, University of Eastern Finland;  Audrey Paradis, University of Oulu;  Marianna Vivitsou, University of Helsinki
  • Planning of activities for 2021

SIG meeting minutes 
The GERIF Team thanks all presenters and participants for the interesting, hopeful and forward-looking discussions during these events! We look forward to seeing you and your colleagues in the next FERA conference in Jyväskylä in November 2021!

Children creating a shared story world in an intercultural exchange

Intercultural learning has less commonly been investigated from children’s perspectives (Walton et al., 2013), as classic intercultural studies were typically based on adults’ experiences of moving abroad (Piller, 2017). In our recently published study (Piipponen & Karlsson, 2021), we investigated how children (aged 10-11 years) created a shared narrative culture during an intercultural story exchange. During the exchange, two classes in different countries exchanged stories that were told using the Storycrafting method. I have written more about the exchange in a previous post.

Because the research on interculturality has its roots in adult learning, the way educators and researchers envisage the role of interculturality in schools is often related to becoming an interculturally adept citizen and employee in the future adult world. There is not yet much theorising about what intercultural learning should look like for children, who partake in the same cultural activities as adults, but are also different to adults (Johanson, 2010). In our study, the children in the two partner classes had the freedom to tell stories about anything they wanted, so they ended up exchanging cultural products (stories and illustrations) made by children, rather than cultural products selected by adults (typically national imagery, customs, clothing, food, festivals, and so on). We followed the children’s exchange of narratives over the course of an academic year (2016-2017) and analysed how the children engaged in the exchange activities to create a shared narrative culture between the exchange partners.

Findings: How a shared narrative culture developed over time

The children’s shared narrative culture was created over time during situations where the children actively negotiated meanings when telling, listening or reading, drawing or viewing, or imagining or discussing the stories. Here are some examples:

  1. Each child in the class had a turn to tell a part of a whole-class story. The story began as a realistic description of “two cool boys singing a rap song”. Turn by turn, fantastical elements started to enter the plot, which culminated in a rap battle between a unicorn and a dragon. The audience laughed each time there was an unexpected turn, which encouraged the tellers to continue incorporating strange and fantastical events into the story.
  2. The partner class drew pictures of “The Two Cool Boys…” story. They chose to illustrate scenes that reflected the exciting or unusual aspects of the story. Some drawings of pink unicorns were rather inspired by the original story than accurate depictions.
  3. The storytellers received the illustrations of their story from the partner class. The drawings were displayed in their classroom. The children viewed the illustrations carefully, discussing them with their peers. They recognised the story events that the drawings depicted. They talked about “the weird story”, and started to form a shared interpretation that influenced the mood of following stories they told during the exchange.
  4. At the end of the school year, some children asked if they could write a thank you letter for their partners. “We loved making fun and crazy stories to send to you and illustrating your stories! You must think that we are crazy!” The partner class reciprocated with a thank you letter as well, where they responded, “You are quite okay, not silly! Thank you for the weird stories! Although our stories were pretty weird too.”

As can be seen over time, the children created a shared understanding between the two partner classes that evolved into a narrative culture of “weirdness”, where most stories involved surprising, fantastical elements that frequently made the listeners laugh. The thank you letters express how the children sincerely enjoyed and appreciated the story exchange with their partner class. Although the children never met face-to-face, a special bond was formed between the partner classes. They were connected by their shared narrative culture.

Discussion: Aesthetic experiences and a community orientation support encountering in a third space

The children’s experiences of encountering others through the stories were aesthetic in nature (Dewey, 1935/2005). An aesthetic experience involves not only thoughts and language, but also emotions, senses and the imagination in the process of meaning making (Kinnunen, Viljamaa & Estola, 2016). According to Dewey’s theory, an aesthetic experience is the fullest mode of experiencing. It often occurs while creating or appreciating artworks, but moments of everyday life can also be experienced aesthetically (Dewey, 1935/2005). The children from both partner classes engaged in the exchange of stories and drawings enthusiastically. Those situations were full of emotion, imagination, creativity and communality. The children were savvy about the shared story world that was being created, and they drew from their cultural repertoires (knowledge, experiences, memories) during the process.

The study uses the concept of a third space (Bhabha, 1994) to explain how cultural change happens in practice. The students’ actions during the story exchange, such as telling, listening, drawing, viewing, reading, discussing and imagining, are ways of entering the third space, where their shared understanding of the narrative culture was negotiated over time. The third space occurs in situations where the students negotiate a new (“third”) way of being together that is not one group’s culture or the other’s, but something else. In this study, the students found ways to connect by telling stories that would make the audience laugh, using humour, unexpected turns and fantastical elements, and they called these their “weird” stories.

For this shared understanding to develop, the story exchange situations had to involve a strong community orientation. All the stories were told either together as a whole class or in small groups. The activities involved intense collaboration between the children, and the teachers supported a dialogical classroom environment by guiding the children to listen actively and without judgement to others’ contributions. Also, the Storycrafting method is designed to support encountering as equals (Karlsson, 2013). The children felt that when creating the stories collaboratively, the outcome was more creative than what they could have managed on their own. Making stories together as a class helped the children to bond with their peers. The fun and enjoyment felt with their peers transferred to the stories, which contributed to a positive connection forming with their partner class too.

To conclude, this study shows that children engage with their existing cultural repertoires when encountering an unfamiliar partner class. They connected by building a playful, fun narrative world together in their collective imaginations. We suggest that engaging in creative pursuits together has a lot of potential for forging bonds between two or more different children’s communities. Furthermore, attention should be paid not only to intergroup interactions, but also to the rapport inside each group, as a strong community spirit transfers to intercultural encounters as well. Finally, children should be able to make their intercultural encounters meaningful by connecting them to their personal experiences and interests, and communicate with their partners in modes they are familiar with, such as storytelling and drawing.

The original research article can be found here:

Oona Piipponen

Doctoral Candidate in Education

University of Eastern Finland

oonamp (at)

Twitter: @OPiipponen


Johanson, K. (2010). Culture for or by the child? ‘Children’s culture’ and cultural policy. Poetics, 38, 386–401.

Karlsson, L. (2013). Storycrafting method – To share, participate, tell and listen in practice and research. The European Journal of Social and Behavioural Sciences, 6(3), 1109–1117.

Kinnunen, S., Viljamaa, E., & Estola, E. (2016). Esteettisiä ja eettisiä kosketuksia. In L. Karlsson, A.-M. Puroila, & E. Estola (Eds.), Välkkeitä, valoja ja varjoja: Kertomuksia lasten hyvinvoinnista (pp. 90–109). NYTNYT.

Piipponen, O. & Karlsson, L. (2021). ‘Our stories were pretty weird too’ – Children as creators of a shared narrative culture in an intercultural story and drawing exchange. International Journal of Educational Research, 106, 1-12.

Piller, I. (2017). Intercultural Communication: A Critical Introduction. Edinburgh University Press.

Walton, J., Priest, N., & Paradies, Y. (2013). Identifying and developing effective approaches to foster intercultural understanding in schools. Intercultural Education, 24(3), 181–194. doi:10.1080/14675986. 2013.793036