How To Raise Kids That Can Make the Future Happen

My home country of Finland has a small population. The country is large, whilst our biggest city, Helsinki, counts just 625,000 people. What you can find in Finland are water, forests… and brains. By that I mean that the most important resource we have is people.

It is absolutely vital that we nurture our young people to innovate, enjoy working and understand the principles of the economy. We must educate them to recognize their role as employees and citizens. We must help them understand the different players in society. We must encourage them become active, committed members of our community. Can schools help young people to achieve this target? Do teachers have the right methods? I am sorry, but I have to say no.

That is why my colleagues and I decided to bring entrepreneurship and society into the schools in a concrete and motivating manner. It is really important to ensure that not one single young person falls outside the system. Each person is needed to help build up the country and economy in the future. The best way to do this is to start at a young age. We must build a better, more forward-looking education system.

In 2010, I co-founded Me & MyCity, a learning concept and learning environment, creating a “miniature town” for primary school students. Me & MyCity is based on the Finnish curriculum. The students in Me & MyCity are sixth-graders, twelve years old.

The Me & MyCity study module builds on the national curriculum by spicing up the themes of entrepreneurship, business life, economy and society. It brings the phenomena of the real world closer to the school. During the study module, students follow the Me & MyCity exercise book. They get to apply for jobs, discuss taxation, make advertisements and start to understand the difference between the private and public sectors. Students participate in ten lessons with their own teacher.

After the ten lessons in the classroom, the students are ready to act as employees and as members of society in their own miniature town. Me & MyCity is a 500-square-meter, hands-on learning environment with miniature companies and public services. Each one of the students has their own job for one day, which they have applied for. The students act as employees, consumers and citizens during that day.

© Me & My City

The society in Me & MyCity represents the real world: the companies are real companies, actual employers in the region. The jobs in the role-play are real jobs and have been planned together with real companies. The students get a taste of real working life. They learn to cooperate, stick to timetables and interact with others. The students have to take responsibility and manage their finances. In Me & MyCity the students feel like they have understood the way society functions: how everything affects everything. They understand what work is and why it is important to work. Some of the students actually start to think about their future.

We started in the capital region, in the city of Helsinki. During the first year, we had only 800 students. Already from the start, Me & MyCity was mobile, so we could move it from one place to another. The schools around Finland kept asking for more. Now, after four years, we have been to 15 cities, we have eight Me & MyCities around Finland. Already, 95,000 students have completed the study module. Today, 70 per cent of Finland’s sixth-graders get to experience their own society every school year.

What is the main message of Me & MyCity? We believe that an entrepreneurial mindset is a key attitude for any country’s future. A country where all citizens have an entrepreneurial spirit can succeed. And this is where Me & MyCity can help. The goal of the schooling system is, after all, to raise kids that can make the future happen.

Tomi Alakoski will speak at the New Cities Summit in Jakarta on June 9-11 as part of our WhatWorks talk series.