Susie Shannon, President & CEO of the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness, Participates in Education Field Study in Finland

(Columbia) - Susie Shannon, President and CEO of the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness is one of 23 South Carolina education stakeholders invited to visit Finland’s public schools to gain insight into critical challenges in public education in South Carolina. The group includes educators, policymakers, community and business leaders, journalists and funders.

Finland’s public education system consistently performs at the top of international rankings, with the great majority of students going on either to academic or vocational post-secondary education. The field study will be led by Public Education Partners, Furman University’s education department, and the Riley Institute at Furman.

Shannon said that it is an honor to participate in this intensive field study and that the Council’s work in education allows her to bring a unique perspective to the tour. “Since its inception, The South Carolina Council on Competitiveness has known, valued, and worked to strengthen the state’s human capital infrastructure through its initiatives on education and workforce issues. Our signature education initiative, TransformSC, includes 67 schools from across the state and 7 entire districts, all of which are willing to change the whole paradigm of instruction and move away from offering one way to learn information to offering choices in learning paths; from whole group instruction to individualized approaches; and from one pace to individual student-paced. Most importantly, they are finding success and seeing better student engagement, decreased absences, increased achievement in both soft skills and academics, and higher teacher satisfaction. Our hope is to see this implemented on a greater scale during our field study throughout Finland and come away with ideas on how we can expand this approach to education back in South Carolina.”

“As we face South Carolina's education challenges, such as our teacher shortage, we must learn from others who have worked to address similar challenges,” said Ansel Sanders, president and CEO of Public Education Partners. “Though Finland is different from South Carolina in that it is a relatively homogeneous country with little poverty, the Finnish approach to education, as well as how the Finns developed this system, offers some useful examples that are applicable in and transferable to South Carolina,” he said.

“The sharing of information will not be one-sided,” said Don Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute at Furman. “South Carolina’s growing success in community schools that support rural communities will be of interest to Finnish educators. They’ll also be interested in our growing network of project-based learning schools because they are transitioning to similar methods of teaching,” Gordon said.

“Most of the 67 schools in the TransformSC network use project-based learning to some degree,” said Dr. Peggy Torrey, Director of TransformSC. “Project-based learning, with its emphasis on real-world problems, deep engagement with subject matter, teamwork, and continuous opportunities for collaboration and communication, better mirrors business environments and prepares students for life after school. So I look forward to sharing that insight with our colleagues in Finland.”

The field study is taking place over seven days in Helsinki and Oulu in October. Participants will observe in primary and secondary schools, including special education settings and inclusive preparatory education intended to support Finland’s growing number of immigrants and foreign language speakers. They will meet with policymakers, university faculty responsible for teacher preparation, school leaders, teachers, students, and family members.