Benchmarking education in Finland & Estonia

Best Practices Benchmarking was the title given to the Erasmus+ KA1 courses which Euneos started in Helsinki capital city area for the first time in 2014. Why did we choose such a title? Well, the concept of benchmarking occurred to me, because I was familiar with it. I had used it years ago when organising school visits between upper secondary schools of Vihti and Pirkkala in Finland.
When the Erasmus+ program was launched in 2014, the Finnish National Agency CIMO warned Finnish course providers not to use “study visits” as a title for KA1 courses. Their opinion was that it would not correspond to what was the idea of Erasmus+ KA1 program. The concept of study visits was – they said aloud – too plain and loose, and they were afraid of courses that would be of poor quality.
I partly agreed with our NA as I had also participated in non-sense study visits during my teacher career. But because of my experience about benchmarking I also knew that exchange of teachers between schools was basically very fruitful. Such courses might also be some kind of job shadowing, I concluded in my mind. 
So I checked in Wikipedia. “Benchmarking is comparing one’s business processes and performance metrics to industry bests and best practices from other companies”.  
Why couldn’t we adopt the same method from industry to school education? Instead of plain study visits we would organise benchmarking courses with  an idea to share ‘best practices’ and develop European education together. I thought that such courses would also meet the tight criteria of the Finnish NA.
Original Best Practices Benchmarking courses in Helsinki and Tallinn (http://www.euneoscourses.eu/?p=147) were more than traditional study visits quite from the beginning. There was the idea of smart personal knowledge-building and involved in the courses. Benchmarking was not just guided tours in school premises, or wasting time in travelling from one place to another, but intensive hours with individual monitoring of lessons in schools of one’s own school level.
Objective: to raise the level of education and learning across the borders. Methods: not too much general lecturing, but smart presentations of experts to the point of the topic. Not only plenary meetings with few questions and answers, but also workshops and sessions for smaller groups. Best practices from schools all over Europe, individual success stories with full enthusiasm of participants.
In sum, Original Best Practices Benchmarking included educational knowledge shared in smartly rationed pieces, individual observations, adopting and digesting innovations, important examples of teaching, studying and learning processes, and personal contributions to discussions.
Participants were activated to draw up detailed recommendations for their own schools, and, at the same time, they developed a common big picture of school education in their own countries and in  Europe too.
CIMO and other Finnish Erasmus + specialists had directed Finnish course providers to pursue high-quality courses.  That was the task Euneos wanted to nurture when we started to offer Erasmus+ KA1 benchmarking courses.
Year 2017 is the fourth year Original Best Practices Benchmarking courses are going to be organised in Helsinki area and Tallinn. Each year a couple of hundreds of European teachers have learned about Finnish and Estonian education. But not only about that. They have also given their contribution to a bigger cause, which is to promote and improve learning in Europe and beyond.
If you look for “benchmarking courses” in Erasmus+ KA1 program, you may also jump into copies of Original Best Practices Benchmarking courses. It’s a bit annoying to see what kind of arrogant copycats there are, calling themselves ‘course providers’. On the other hand, it’s fine evidence about how true and genuine the concept of benchmarking is in Erasmus+ course providing indeed.
By the way, today you can also find the concept ‘benchmarking education’ in Wikipedia. I did not see it when I checked the concept in 2014. “The study programmes include not only class-room instructions but also hands to training on latest equipment’s and software’s, under the guidance of experts”.
Quite to the point. The digital turn is taking place in the schools of Finland and Estonia. Therefore Euneos FI also organises special Erasmus+ KA1 courses for Benchmarking Learning with Serious Games & Other Digital Innovations, https://www.euneoscourses.eu/?p=147.

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manager of Euneos Corp., EU course provider since 2006, senior lecturer of high school (retired), language teacher, writer

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