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Alakylä - Path for Entrepreneurship

This case study was prepared by Marko Varamaki from Alakylä School, edited by Joseph TIXIER from the OECD LEED Programme

Introduction

Alakyla Pupil Parliament

School Pupils Parliament, 2014 Alakyla

Seinäjoki is the centre of South Ostrobothnia in western Finland and one of the fastest growing urban areas in Finland. The population is 60000, and 35000 inhabitants live in central Seinäjoki.

Seinäjoki offers high-quality education from primary school to university level. There are 26 primary schools in Seinäjoki, and Alakylä School is one of the biggest, with 300 students, 18 teachers and several other staff members. The school is located three kilometres from the town centre. The first school building was built in 1912, but before that students went to school in a farm house nearby. Nowadays, Alakylä School consists of four different buildings and the newest one dates back from 2013.

The local environment of the school offers several opportunities to entrepreneurship education. The school was established in countryside, and there are still several farms and for example a dairy product factory, Valio, near the school. These are the oldest cooperation partners.

All teaching is based on the idea that students have good feeling to come to school and they feel secure and are self-confidence to act in their classrooms with other students and the teacher. We are using the steps of responsibility to prevent wrongdoings by teaching children to take responsibility for their actions. http://www.kidsskills.org/english/responsibility/

The size and the spirit of the school are ideal for designing and implementing entrepreneurship education. The entrepreneurship education has been a part of our curriculum for a long time; long before the entrepreneurship education came in our national curriculum. We have regular pedagogical teacher meetings, and all new teachers are well informed about our pedagogical and practical systems. All these help teachers to commit to their work as entrepreneurial workers.

Rationale

 Since decades, cooperation with nearby companies has always been natural at Alakylä School. Many workers have had their own children at Alakylä School, some families even three generations. Companies have been willing to open their doors and introduce their business. They have also donated their products or money to different actions at school to benefit the whole local society. At this open way the companies have shown their social responsibility.

The beginning for the cooperation between Alakylä School and local companies dates from earlier decades. Companies wanted to give food and different goodies to poor families at least a couple of times a year. Companies wanted to thank the workers and their families for a good work. Nowadays, the standard of living is higher, and the support is directed more to playing and learning, for example to playground equipment and SmartBoards. Companies also support different annual family happenings, for example Bonfire happening each Easter. Background for this kind of cooperation is a common will to work together. In different family happenings, new workers and families in Alakylä school area get to know each other and come a part of the community.

Companies want to introduce their work and business. Valio, the local dairy product factory, is the first cooperation partner. Many workers have or have had their children at Alakylä school. During the visits in companies, children see where their parents work and what they do. This is important, because nowadays children seldom see their parents working. Earlier, parents used to work at home for example at their own farm, and children used to get the model for working. During company visits, children can be proud of the parents and get to know the parents of their own friends.

Alakylä School and companies have signed partnership contracts. The annual timetable etc. are chosen to fit with the needs of different age groups. Students can visit the companies or/and company representatives or parents visit the school in order to tell the children about their jobs.

Description of the activity/project

A path of entrepreneurship/ Cooperation between School and the nearest Companies

Alakyla it works

Student project work “IT WORKS”

The following actions on the path are based on the national curriculum. The path is a part of the curriculum of our school, and thereby these actions need to be done. The path has been developed throughout the years by the teachers and the companies, and new private partners are welcome to join.

Through this path, students are guided to discover how a community works, including the roles and responsibilities of different people, businesses and organizations within it. Students are assisted in the discovery of how citizens have a responsibility for the economic welfare of their own community and also taught on other school subjects.

The aim is that during this six years long path, every pupil visits about ten different companies or workplaces and gets information about dozens of different professions or occupations. In this way, students see that working is an important part of everyday life and that they might find out more about their future profession or even their future workplace.

The actions do not need extra financial resources. Every teacher does these actions whenever during the school year, and teachers are responsible to contact the partners to schedule the visits. At the same time, students learn social skills, team work, creativity, different kinds of learning methods etc.

In the first grade, students get to know the different occupations at school. They meet teachers, cleaners, headmaster etc. All these workers tell about their work, and children get a glimpse on how many different people and vocations it needs run their school and make teaching and learning in it possible.

In the second grade, the children’s parents come to the classrooms on a voluntary basis and present their work. Some parents may even invite the children to their own workplace.

In the third grade students start to visit companies outside the school. The decision on which company is to be visited by a given group depends on the national curriculum. For example farming as a source of livelihood belongs to the fourth graders` environmental studies so the year four visits the farm opposite to school.

Alakyla real job
Students working in a kind of real jobs for a one day

Other companies and workplaces visited during the path of the entrepreneurship include:

Most of the companies are located near our school.  Each year group also visits the church of Seinäjoki and the theatre, which are designed by Alvar Aalto. They also visit the library at least once during the primary school years.

The preparation for the company visits

Before the visits, teachers gets in touch with the company and students get information about it, for instance via internet, homepages and flyers. Companies may give further information about the visit before-hand. Students are told what they should learn during their visit and may write questions down or get little observation tasks about the company prior to the visit. It is extremely important for the students to know how to act in a proper way during the visits. That is the way students practice good manners, how to be polite, how to greet or shake hands etc. at school before the visits.

Anchoring of the activity/project in the school and linking it with the external world

As mentioned above, all visits during the path are connected to a specific subject in the school. The table below presents how students gain new knowledge and how they connect with the company that is visited

Links between visits and in-school learning content:

School year

Step in the path

Activity/question addressed during the visit

Learning output

1

Different jobs in our school,

 

My dream job

 

Students interview the staff and present their own dream jobs by writings and drawings or even by making a little film.

 

Children notice, how many different people make their school going and learning possible.

 

2

Parents’ job presentations

 

Parents visit the class and tell about their jobs. Class room actions depend on parents presentations.

Most of the parents go to work or are at work, but what do they do during the days? Children notice that there are different jobs and educations in the families and they also get information about said jobs.

 

3

Grocery store

Different jobs in shops. How to shop polite? Where does food come from?

Recognizing vegetable and fruit. Information about healthy food and snacks. Discussion about shoplifting.

 

4

Dairy product factory

 

How many people work in the factory? What is the benefit of the factory to the town? What do they product in a factory?

 

Different jobs and education in the factory.

Milk from farm to factory.

What is primary production and what we have in Seinäjoki area.

 

Farm

 

What do farmers do? Why is farming important?

 

Learning about farm animals and grains.

Farmer’s year.

 

5

Bank

What do people do in a bank? How do credit cards work and who can get one? What are loan and interest? Why is it good to have a bank in your home town?

 

Basic banking knowledge. Information about money, loans, personal economic life etc.

6

Newspaper

 

What do people do in a newspaper? What is a piece of news? What kind of news interest students? What is freedom of speech? News and world view – how can reporters influence your world view? Newspaper week – making own news.

 

Basic knowledge on editing and publishing. News and world view. Differences between commercials and news. Social media and responsibilities.

 

Me&MyCity, an innovative learning concept for 6th-graders in Finland

 

Me&MyCity, a workday in the Me&MyCity : students have 10 lessons about how a community works, what kind of jobs there are in the cities, why inhabitants pay taxes etc. and make job interviews to each other´s to find out who is suitable for what job before the actual workday.

 

Information about communities and cities.

http://yrityskyla.fi/wordpress/en/

 

Day at work

 

Day at work: Students spend a day with their parents in their work places and write a report of that.

 

Getting to know better what parents do during their working days

1-6

Visits to companies nearby, Church, Library and Museum visits

Company visits are planned with the teacher and the entrepreneur beforehand and they are usually short visits to find out what people/ the workers do in those companies.

Church, library and museum visits take place many times during the school years.

 

Each visit has a different agenda, for example find out about the architect and the design of the buildings (Library and church).

All partners work on a voluntary basis with the school, even if the entrepreneurial education is a part of our curriculum. Each partner is chosen on the basis of the school curriculum and with this question always in mind: “How can we make the curriculum real in our every day school life?”

Our school has an important role in the area. If the school is active, people and companies in the area come active as well.  Alakylä School works together with the local residents’ association for example by organizing an Easter Bonfire evening, Christmas happening and Recycling bring-and-buy sale.

Alakylä School also offers its sports hall for different sport clubs and other hobbies. People can also rent for example our dining hall for instance for birthdays and other family events. The playground, sport equipment and ice rink on the schoolyard are available for the people at the area after the school days.

The school in the community

Our school has an important role in the area. If the school is active, people and companies in the area become active as well and engage with the school. Alakylä School works together with the local residents’ association for example by organizing an Easter Bonfire evening, Christmas happening and Recycling bring-and-buy sale.

Alakylä School also offers its sports hall for different sport clubs and other hobbies. People can also rent for example our dining hall for instance for birthdays and other family events. The playground, sport equipment and ice rink on the schoolyard are available for the people at the area after the school days.

This close cooperation with the local community makes it easier for the school to engage with companies and other public actors and link them to the educational activities such as the Path of Entrepreneurship.

Achievements and impact

Alakyla Prime Minister
Prime Minister Alexander Stubb visit in October 2014

Alakylä School has been active in entrepreneurial activities locally in Seinäjoki, nationally in Finland and also internationally. In Seinäjoki we have been promoting our entrepreneurial practices toward all the other schools in Seinäjoki by publishing a “How-to-start” booklet. Nationally Alakylä School has worked together with Lappeenranta University of Technology by developing the entrepreneurial education assessment tools for teachers.

Internationally, Alakylä School was the first school in Northern Europe to get the Excellence in Enterprise Education – Award in 2013. The award recognizes the quality of achievement in enterprise education and was given by the University of Warwick, UK. The award is valid for three years.

Alakylä School is also in ‘The Entrepreneurial School’ –project of Junior Achievement – Young Entrepreneurship organisation, in which entrepreneurial tools and methods are organized in teacher-friendly packages. The intent is to make it easier to apply entrepreneurial learning in any subject area and age group.

Success factors

Success factors in ´path of entrepreneurship´ are:

Obstacles and ways to overcome them

The school and teachers have to be active because the partners do not necessarily have time to contact the school. Teachers are active by finding someone in a company who has time to meet students and tell about the company. If the company coordinator changes, the teacher is responsible for finding a new coordinator by contacting again the company.