Quality of life in a Kathmandu slum

Early in the morning in 9th of May 2012, people living in Thapathali slum community woke up, when bulldozers, protected by riot police forces, started the government program, “Bagmati River Basin Improvement Project”, by demolishing the large and most visible slum built on the river bank of Bagmati River. Few hours later the whole settlement together with its church and school, was a huge heap of sticks, bricks, plywood, sheet metal and pieces of tarpaulin. (Human Rights Watch 2012.)

In the shadows of the Asian urban jungle, slum and squatter settlements are growing in numbers but their existence is on other people’s hands. Living at the margins of society, their inhabitants are often deprived of basic access to education, health care and a decent standard of living. But can life also hold promises of a better future? What does wellbeing actually mean for the inhabitants themselves? This paper presents a joint research and development process by Diaconia University of Applied Sciences (Diak), Turku University of Applied Sciences and the Nepalese St. Xavier’s College, with an aim to describe and analyze the wellbeing of people in the Balkhu riverside slum settlement in Kathmandu, Nepal. We are interested in answering two questions: What do people in a slum think about their everyday life? How satisfied are they with their current life?

Mother and children in Balkhu
Picture 1. Mother and children in Balkhu. PHOTO: Kyösti Voima

The student research team from Diak first established contact with the community and learned basic information through observations and initial discussions. This contact was based on earlier collaboration done by lecturer Kyösti Voima from Diak. Then community leaders, contractors, government personnel and various stakeholders, totaling over 30 persons, were interviewed, and the survey in Balkhu community was conducted. Local key resources were the trusted leader of a community-based organization in the settlement as well as the social development officer and environment and energy officer from the District Development Committee (DDC) in Kathmandu. Two Bachelor’s theses (Khanal 2014 and Rumba 2014) were done in this project.

The Balkhu settlement

Nepal is a poor nation. Estimated per capita Gross Domestic Product per capita PPP was US $ 2265 for the year 2014. At the same time GDP per capita PPP in Finland was US $ 38 569 (Trading Economics 2016). High rate of rural poverty has caused internal displacement and attracted people to settle in urban areas (Acharya 2010, 179-180). Uncontrolled rapid urbanization, low socio-economic growth, inadequate capacity to cope with housing needs and poor imbalanced governance has caused increase of urban poverty (Shakya 2010, 1; see picture 6).

Since the 1950s dozens of settlements have been established alongside the two major rivers, Bagmati and Vishnumati. The Balkhu settlement is located along the holy river Bagmati. The riverside has natural access to water, making it a preferred choice for new dwellers but these rivers are the most polluted ones in the country (Toffin 2010, 157–158; see picture 3). A need for drinkable water is huge and many ways to guarantee clean water are in use (see picture 5). Also sanitation is challenging (see picture 6). An estimated 1650 people reside in 360 households, making Balkhu one of the largest settlements in the valley. Several religious groups are established in the settlement area (Kivelä 2014).

The dumping ground with nearest settlement houses
Picture 2. The dumping ground with nearest settlement houses. PHOTO: Sami Kivelä

Next to Balkhu settlement is the Balkhu Fruit market and opposite are a few industries and warehouses. Balkhu is a strategic location from the economic point of view as it is next to Ring Road which connects with the transport system going away from Kathmandu Valley. There is an open dumping site used by the fruit market to dispose of unwanted market waste, majority of these being bio waste (see picture 2), and another unprotected mixed waste dumping site just on the opposite side of the river, increasing the waste load of the heavily polluted river.

Balkhu riverside environment
Picture 3. Balkhu riverside environment. PHOTO: Anup Khanal & Ramesh Rumba
Balkhu Housing types and alley
Picture 4. Balkhu Housing types and alley. PHOTO: Anup Khanal & Ramesh Rumba
 Water source in Balkhu
Picture 5. Water source in Balkhu. PHOTO: Anup Khanal & Ramesh Rumba
Sanitation in Balkhu
Picture 6. Sanitation in Balkhu. PHOTO: Anup Khanal & Ramesh Rumba

Quality of life in a slum

The concept of quality of life (QOL) has been expressed in different ways. The concept is close to such concepts like Good life, Wellbeing, Satisfaction and Happiness. The earliest well-known Western formulation of good life (quality of life) was expressed by Aristotle in his concept of “eudaimonia”, where the individuals were encouraged to realize their full potential to achieve a “good life.” In the meanwhile, Eastern philosophers brought forward the QOL by equal distribution of resources and restraining from individual desires. (Diener and Suh 1997, 190.) QOL according to the utilitarian theory presented the idea of satisfaction of the individual desires and a good society is defined as the one which provides the maximum satisfaction or positive experiences to its citizens. It is not limited to crude materialism but it also involves generosity and satisfaction from altruistic behavior. (Cobb 2000, 7.)

The quality of life of people in the Balkhu Settlement is presented from a subjective viewpoint as well as by objective observation. Objective observations have been done in participatory observation and interviews and results are documented in this article with photos from Balkhu. The subjective part of wellbeing deals with how satisfied Balkhu residents are with different domains of their life. Domains have been selected based on earlier studies on subjective wellbeing (see Kainulainen 2014). These themes are studied by questioning the following questions:

  • How well do you manage with everyday life on yourself?
  • How satisfied are you with your health, sanitation, present life, housing, neighbors and safety?
  • How do you see your future?

Quality of Life in the Balkhu Slum Settlement

In total 103 households out of recorded 361 were surveyed by four two person teams. The survey had 46 open- and close-ended questions which covered different themes. The themes were personal information, education, economic status, cultural status, health, water and sanitation, social issues, housing and political status.

As an illegal settlement the community is subject to government evacuation or demolition. The houses in Balkhu are also subject to natural calamities and the surrounding environment is not suitable for healthy living. The polluted Bagmati River is a great threat in terms of health and flooding. The settlement is subject to social and economic discrimination and marginalization. Given all these factors the community is considered insecure for living. The survey revealed 57 percent responded they were dissatisfied with safety within the community while only 20 percent of families were satisfied with the safety of the community.

The developing plans of Bagmati River by Kathmandu Municipality increase the peoples fear to be evacuated (see Bagmati action plan 2008). Every fourth responded evacuation as the fearful factor. 40 percent responded natural calamities such as flood and fire to be the other factors. Rest of the respondent mentioned fear of robbery, diseases, sewage and alcoholism to be fearful factors. People have good reason for their fear. The unsuccessful government action in 2012 made the situation of thousands of slum settlers even more vulnerable than before.

balkhun figure 1
Figure 1. Subjective wellbeing of the Balkhu squatter settlement.

Every third (36 %) of the people said they were dissatisfied with their present life while same share of them felt neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. Only one in four were satisfied with their present life. 20 percent of Balkhu people felt their future was worsening while 22 percent felt their future was getting better. More than half of the people have the feeling that future will be the same as today. In regards to health facilities, 53 percent of the residents were not satisfied with their health. The sanitation in Balkhu was also not satisfactory for 65 percent of the people.

Discussion

The Balkhu settlement is a prime example of urban poverty and very little improvement has been seen in addressing this issue as the number of settlements is growing year after year. According to our findings, neither the objective nor the subjective quality of life can been considered satisfactory in Balkhu. The settlement lacks the basic facilities such as proper shelter, safe drinking water, clean environment and electricity among others. Personal faith can be integral for maintaining hope – whether you are a Hindu, Buddhist, Christian or Muslim – and faith-based organizations have provided crucial practical and spiritual aid. However, care should always be taken that religious adherence does not exclude anyone from getting aid. Full dignity and respect of universal human rights need to be ensured for all.

Subjective wellbeing tells the story of how people feel about and evaluate their objective environment. Objective and subjective indicators tell us that the situation is extremely bad in slums. But subjective indicators also tell us that even in a very dire situation some people don’t give up and people have dreams and hope (see Biswas-Diener & Diener 2001). The facts we have brought up in this article give us as developers of UAS some hints how to strengthen the capacity of people living in slums to overcome the challenges.

Happiness in Balkhu
Picture 7. Happiness in Balkhu. PHOTO: Kyösti Voima

According to our experiences we recommend the following: building a “neutral” community house for community meetings to enable people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds to come together; improving the infrastructure: water, sanitation, waste management; training of preschool teachers to strengthen the children’s school readiness as well as starting a Neighborhood Care Point (NCP) to increase the children’s wellbeing and strengthening the capacity of the community health promotion.

Writers

Anup Khanal, Graduate Student, Bachelor of Social Services, Diaconia University of Applied Sciences, droid.anup(at)gmail.com
Sakari Kainulainen, Senior Specialist, Adjunct Professor, Diaconia University of Applied Sciences, sakari.kainulainen(at)diak.fi
Kyösti Voima, Lecturer in International Affairs, MPH Int’l Health, Diaconia University of Applied Sciences, kyosti.voima(at)diak.fi
Sami Kivelä, Lecturer in International Affairs, M. Theol, Diaconia University of Applied Sciences, sami.kivela(at)diak.fi

Acharya, B. R. (2010). Urban Poverty: A Sociological Study of Shankhamul Squatter. Accessed 26.9.2014, www.nepjol.info/index.php/DSAJ/article/view/4519

Biswas-Diener, R. & Diener, E. (2001). Making the Best of a Bad Situation: Satisfaction in the Slums of Calcutta. Social Indicators Research 55(3), 329–352.

Cobb, C. W. (2000). Measurement tools and the quality of life. Accessed 12.10.2014. http://rprogress.org/publications/2000/measure_qol.pdf

Diener, E. & Suh, E. (1997). Measuring Quality of Life: Economic, Social, and Subjective Indicators. Accessed 12.10.2014. http://web.yonsei.ac.kr/suh/file/Measuringpercent20qualitypercent20ofpercent20life_Economic,percent20social,percent20andpercent20subjectivepercent20indicators.pdf

Human Rights Watch. Accessed 2.5.2016. https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/05/10/nepal-halt-evictions-kathmandu

Kainulainen, S. (2014). Mitä uutta kokemuksellisuus tuo hyvinvoinnin käsitteeseen ja käyttöön? Teoksessa A. Nieminen, A. Tarkiainen & E. Vuorio (toim.) Kokemustieto, hyvinvointi ja paikallisuus. Turun ammattikorkeakoulun Raportteja 177. Turku.

Khanal, A. (2014). Living on the Edge – Quality of life in Balkhu Squatter Settlement, Nepal. Bachelor of Social Services final thesis. Diaconia University of Applied Sciences.

Kivelä, S. (2014). Faiths and community in a riverside slum in Nepal. Paper presented at the Diaconia under Pressure conference in Stockholm 18.9.2014. Organized by the International Society for the Research and Study of Diaconia and Christian Social Practice.

Rumba, R. (2014). Balkhu Settlement in Kathmandu: A Poor Neighborhood. Situation Analysis. Bachelor of Social Services final thesis. Diaconia University of Applied Sciences.

Shakya, S. (2005). An extensive study of the urban poverty situation and its environmental implications in the squatter settlements of Kathmandu and Dharan. Accessed 18.10.2014. lib.icimod.org/record/378/files/362.5SHE.pdf

Toffin, G. (2010). Urban fringes: squatter and slum settlements in the Kathmandu Valley. Accessed 26.9.2014. http://himalaya.socanth.cam.ac.uk/collections/journals/contributions/pdf/CNAS_37_02_06.pdf

Trading Economics. Accessed 29.4.2016. www.tradingeconomics.com/finland/gdp-per-capita-ppp

Siä päätät!

Palvelumuotoilu ja pelillisyys nuorten osallisuuden tukena

Siä päätät!- hankkeessa rakennetaan uudenlaista toimintamallia nuorten osallisuuden tukemiseen. Ratkaisuja kehitetään palvelumuotoilun ja peli-innovaatioiden avulla. Hanke sai alkunsa, kun alle 30-vuotiaiden asiakasryhmän huomattiin kasvaneen työvoimapalveluissa, mielenterveys-, terveys- ja päihdepalveluissa sekä aikuissosiaalityössä. Käytännön kokemuksen kautta kyseinen asiakasryhmä koettiin haastavaksi, sillä heidän mahdollisuutensa ja motivaationsa sitoutua tarjottuihin palveluihin tai elämänmuutosten toteuttamiseen vaihtelevat.

Hankkeessa halutaan saada nuorten ääni kuuluviin jo palveluiden suunnitteluvaiheessa, koska nuorilla on paras käsitys palveluista, joita he tarvitsevat ja joihin he ovat valmiita sitoutumaan. Sähköisten palveluiden lisätessä suosiotaan kehitetään myös peli-innovaatio, jonka avulla nuoret voivat parantaa ja harjoitella tunne-, vuorovaikutus- ja itsesäätelytaitojaan myös itsenäisesti.

Nuorten kehittämiä palveluita ja peli-innovaatiota kokeillaan yhteistyössä hanketoimijoiden kanssa aidoissa asiakastilanteissa. Hankkeeseen ei rekrytoitu erillisiä hanketyöntekijöitä, jotta menetelmät saataisiin suoraan jalkautettua osaksi organisaatioiden peruspalvelurakenteita.

Hankkeen vaikuttavuuden ajatellaan olevan kaksitahoinen. Palvelumuotoilun avulla pelejä ja palveluita kehittävät nuoret saavat kokemuksen osallisuudesta ja yhteisöllisyydestä, joilla ajatellaan olevan vaikutusta nuorten hyvinvoinnin kokemukseen ja kehittävän muun muassa sosiaalisia taitoja. Lisäksi kehitettävien menetelmien oletetaan tarjoavan nuorille uusia mahdollisuuksia heidän kokemusmaailmastaan viriävien tärkeiksi koettujen teemojen käsittelyyn.

Palvelumuotoilu ja pelillisyys osallisuuden rakentajina

Nuorten osallisuuden tukeminen palvelumuotoilulla tarkoittaa tulkintaa, että nuoret ovat palvelujen asiakkaita ja ollaan kiinnostuneita heidän kokemuksistaan. Palvelumuotoiluprosessin lähtökohtana on asiakkaan tarpeiden, unelmien ja toiveiden ymmärtäminen. Käyttäjät tuottavat tietoa, jota voidaan käyttää palveluiden suunnitteluun ja kehittämiseen, jolloin varmistetaan tuotteen tai palveluiden käytettävyys. (Miettinen 2011.) Palvelut ovat ajassa tapahtuvia prosesseja, jotka koostuvat toimenpiteistä, joilla pyritään löytämään asiakkaan ongelmaan tai tarpeeseen ratkaisu. Korostetaan ymmärrystä siitä, miten asiakkaat kokevat palvelun ja miten he käyttävät sitä.

Palvelumuotoilussa keskitytään usein palvelujärjestelmämallin vuorovaikutteiseen eli asiakkaalle näkyvään osaan (asiakasrajapinnassa). Palveluiden jäsennyksinä käytetään esim. palvelutuokiota tai palvelupolkua. Asiakkaan ja palveluntarjoajan välinen vuorovaikutus keskeisissä kohtaamisissa kuvataan palvelutuokiona, kun taas toisiaan seuraavat palvelutuokiot muodostavat palvelupolun, jonka muodostumiseen vaikuttavat sekä palveluntarjoajan asettama tuotantoprosessi että asiakkaan omat valinnat. Palvelupolku-termi huomioi sen, että asiakkaan omat tarpeet, valinnat ja käyttäytymismalli ohjaava palvelun käyttöä palveluntarjoajan määrittelemän palveluprosessin ohella. (Koivisto 2011.) Erityisen tuen tarpeessa olevien ja syrjäytymisuhan alla olevien nuorten palvelut ovat hajanaisia, joten huomion kiinnittäminen palvelutuokioiden kehittämiseen ja palvelupolkujen selkiyttämiseen on tarpeen.

Pelillisyydellä tarkoitetaan pelien elementtien viemistä ei-pelillisiin konteksteihin. Pelillisyyden lisäarvona tai etuna on se, että sen avulla pelaajan psykologinen tila tai käyttäytyminen muuttuu (Huotari 2015, 7) toivottuun suuntaan. Pelillisyydellä tavoitellaan Siä päätät! -hankkeessa toisaalta kohderyhmänä olevien nuorten osallisuuden tukemista sekä toisaalta osallisuutta lisääviä ja voimavaraistavia peli-innovaatioita nuorten palveluissa käytettäväksi.

Osallisuuden tukemisella ajatellaan olevan vaikutusta nuoren hyvinvoinnin kokemukseen. Osallisuusmäärittelyjen (mm. Arnstein 1969; Hart 1995; Juhila 2006) oletuksena on usein yhteisön toiminnassa mukana oleminen, yhteisöllinen vastuunkanto ja aktiivinen osallistuminen. Korkeamäen (2008, 191–192) mukaan yhteisöllisyyden ja hyvinvoinnin välinen syy-yhteys ei kuitenkaan ole mutkaton eikä yhteisöllistä osallisuutta voida pitää hyvinvoinnin takeena. Hyvinvoinnin ilmeneminen voidaan kuvata myös voimaantumisen prosessina toimintaympäristön sosiaalisissa rakenteissa ja olosuhteissa. Tällaisia ympäristöön liittyviä olosuhteita ja rakenteita ovat muun muassa tasa-arvoisuus, yhteisten päämäärien asettaminen, yhteistoiminta, ilmapiirin avoimuus ja toisten arvostaminen. (Siitonen 1999, 189.)

Nuoret arvioivat ja kehittävät

Siä päätät! -hankkeen kohderyhmänä ovat nuoret, joilla on tarpeita erityiseen tukeen johtuen esimerkiksi nuoren terveydellisistä seikoista tai henkilöhistoriaan liittyvistä tekijöistä. He ovat työelämän ja koulutuksen ulkopuolella tai osallistuvat kuntouttavaan työtoimintaan. Heitä on usein hankala tavoittaa, joten hankkeessa hyödynnetään jo olemassa olevia nuorten ryhmiä Sotek-säätiön ja Kaakkois-Suomen sosiaalipsykiatrisen yhdistyksen toiminnoissa. Heistä muodostettiin kaksi asiakasraatia, joista toinen arvioi aiemmin kehitettyjä voimavaralähtöisiä menetelmiä ja toinen kehitti osallistavia peliaihioita. Menetelmäarvioinnin lähtökohtana oli Kymenlaakson ammattikorkeakoulun sosiaalialan asiantuntijoiden kokoama menetelmätarjotin, josta asiakasraadin nuoret valitsivat viisi menetelmää jatkoon eli kokeiltavaksi ja jatkokehitettäväksi nuorille suunnatuissa palveluissa. Jatkoon valitut menetelmät olivat Tulevaisuuden muistelu, eläinavusteiset menetelmät, Ihmefilmi, Rahakramppi sekä Nyytin nettiryhmät & Verkkarit. Näiden lisäksi nuoret kokivat hyviksi menetelmiksi e-Familycoachin, Päihdeputken ja Nuottavalmennuksen.

Peliaihioita kehitetään seuraavassa vaiheessa Kymenlaakson ammattikorkeakoulun pelialan opiskelijoiden työnä sellaiseen muotoon, että niitä voidaan testata. Menetelmätarjottimelta valittuja menetelmiä puolestaan kokeillaan haminalaisissa nuorten palveluissa, kuten esimerkiksi nuorisotyössä, työvoiman palvelutoimistossa, toisen asteen oppilaitoksissa ja psykiatrian poliklinikalla. Menetelmien kokeilun aikana sekä nuorten että työntekijöiden kokemuksia ja kehittämisideoita kootaan menetelmien edelleen kehittelyn tarpeisiin. Myös peliaihiosta kehitettyjä versioita kokeillaan ja ideoidaan eteenpäin.

Hankkeen loppuvaiheessa kootaan asiakasraatien nuoret kuulemaan ja näkemään sitä, miten heidän valitsemiaan menetelmiä on kokeiltu, millaisena muut nuoret ne ovat kokeneet, millaisena työntekijät ovat ne kokeneet ja mihin suuntaan menetelmät ovat mahdollisesti kehittyneet. Samoin tarkastellaan peliaihioista rakennettujen pelien kokeilun ja kehittämisen prosesseja. Tavallaan nuoret näkevät näin oman ”käden jälkensä” tai osallistumisen vaikutuksen.

Innovaation ydin – kysytään nuorilta

Siä päätät! -hankkeen nimenä kuvaa hyvin hankkeen ydintä. Hankkeen merkittävin innovaatio on suunnittelutyön siirtäminen asiantuntijoilta asiakkaille, jota ei tässä mittakaavassa ole hankkeessa toimivien tahojen mukaan ole tässä laajuudessa aikaisemmin toteutettu Suomessa. Monissa hankkeissa nuoria on pyydetty arvioimaan asiantuntijoiden suunnittelemia menetelmiä joko etu- tai jälkikäteen, mutta nuorten sijoittaminen suunnittelun keskiöön on lähestymistapana uusi. Hankkeessa korostetaan ratkaisukeskeisen viitekehyksen mukaisesti nuorten kokemusta ja asiantuntijuutta palvelutarpeiden ja palvelumallien suunnittelussa, sillä asiantuntijoilla on vain harvoin kokemusperäistä tietoa siitä todellisuudesta, jossa opiskelun ja työn ulkopuolella olevat nuoret elävät.

Nuorten kehittämiä menetelmiä hyödynnetään jo hankkeen aikana mahdollisimman laajasti eri kohderyhmissä ja konteksteissa. Menetelmien odotetaan jalkautuvan parhaiten organisaatioiden omana toimintana olemassa olevia työntekijäresursseja hyödyntämällä, kun työntekijöillä on mahdollisuus kokeilla menetelmiä osana omaa työtään. Hankkeen aikana organisaatioissa tapahtuvan asiakastyön orientaatiossa on havaittu muutosta kohti asiakaslähtöisempää tai dialogista asiakastyötä, joka tarkoittaa nimenomaan nuoren äänen kuulemista (Mönkkönen 2007). Hanketoimijoiden toimintakulttuurissa on pantu merkille, että työntekijät pyrkivät orientoitumaan asiakastilanteisiin niin, että nuorten osallisuutta tuetaan myös heidän kohtaamisessaan. Tämä asenteiden muutostyö haminalaisissa nuorten palveluissa on jo hyvässä vauhdissa, vaikka työtä tällä saralla vielä riittää.

Artikkelin kuvituskuvan ovat suunnitelleet Etelä-Kymenlaakson ammattiopiston Rannikkopajan nuoret.

Kirjoittajat

Tiina Kirvesniemi, projektipäällikkö, KL, Kymenlaakson ammattikorkeakoulu, tiina.kirvesniemi(at)kyamk.fi
Elise Wass, toisen asteen psykologi, PsM, Haminan kaupunki, elise.wass(at)hamina.fi

Arnstein, S. (1969). A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of American Institute of Planners 35(4), 216 –224.

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Hart, R. (1995). The right to play and children’s participation. Teoksessa H. Shier (toim.) Article 31 action Park: Children’s rights and children’s play. Birmingham: Play Train.

Huotari, J. (2015). Gamification: Motivations & Effects. Aalto University publication series doctoral dissertations 11/2015.

Ihmefilmi. Haettu 21.4.2106 http://ihmefilmi.fi/

Juhila, K. (2006). Sosiaalityöntekijöinä ja asiakkaina. Sosiaalityön yhteiskunnalliset tehtävät ja paikat. Jyväskylä: Gummeruksen kirjapaino Oy.

Koivisto, M. (2011). Palvelumuotoilun peruskäsitteet. Teoksessa S. Miettinen (toim.) Palvelumuotoilu – uusia menetelmiä käyttäjätiedon hankintaan ja hyödyntämiseen. Helsinki: Teknologiateollisuus, 43–54.

Korkeamäki, R. (2008). Surffailua arjessa: Tila, aika ja vuorovaikutus nuorten yhteisöllistä kuulumista jäsentämässä. Teoksessa Irene Roivainen, Marianne Nylund, Riikka Korkiamäki & Suvi
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Miettinen, S. (2011). Palvelumuotoilu – yhteissuunnittelua, empatiaa ja osallistumista. Teoksessa S. Miettinen (toim.) Palvelumuotoilu – uusia menetelmiä käyttäjätiedon hankintaan ja hyödyntämiseen. Helsinki: Teknologiateollisuus, 21–41.

Mönkkönen, K. (2007). Vuorovaikutus. Dialoginen asiakastyö. Helsinki: Edita.

Nuottavalmennus. Haettu 21.5.2016 http://www.snk.fi/fi/palvelut/nuotta-valmennus/

Päihdeputki. Haettu 21.4.2016 http://www.kiinnostaakohuumeet.fi/2013/10/08/laatua-putkeen-mita-jokaisen-paihdeputken-suunnittelijan-tulee-tietaa-ehkaisevasta-huumetyosta/

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Education Technology Transfer to Developing Countries

Education Technology Transfer to Developing Countries

Education Technology Transfer to Developing Countries

Introduction

Many companies and educational organisations in Finland are interested in the possibilities of exporting education to new countries. The Finnish school system has a good reputation all over the world. In this article, we will concentrate on India, as one of the authors is originally from India and he is currently working in the education sector. Professor Adaikalam represents the Loyola College Chennai, faculty of social work, and he addresses the topic from the Indian culture’s point of view.

India has rapidly become a major player in world economics. Nowadays, it is one of the largest economies in the world, and over the past two decades it has seen millions of people rise to higher socioeconomic classes. Development steps have also been taken, especially in the health and well-being sectors. India is a developing economy. Two-thirds of the population still live in rural areas, which poses challenges especially for vulnerable groups, regarding people’s access to services.

India has put a lot of effort into developing its school system. The entire school system in India is under a digitalization process, which means that schools of all levels need new kinds of technology and tools, but also an understanding of new needs of learning. It is possible that digital education technologies will eventually revolutionize the way we learn and teach. The problem in India is that best educational practices haven’t been scaled nationally, or the scaling is happening too slowly. One example of this is the fact that 1/5 of Indian children in fifth grade are not able to read simple words. Despite massive investments in developing the education system, learning results have not improved. Pritchett talks about the learning crisis, which he sees as a barrier to economic growth in developing countries (Pritchett 2013).

Challenges

The population of India has grown quickly, and India has a large amount of young people. India is considered to be one of the world’s fastest growing Internet markets, and it will reach over 300 million Internet users by 2017.  Today, there are more households in developing countries with a mobile phone than with access to clean water. One year ago, the Indian government launched a program to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledgeable economy. The purpose of the government’s Digital India initiative is to make government services better available to citizens electronically by improving the online infrastructure and increasing Internet connectivity. At the same time, western countries are exporting their business such as digital learning platforms to the Indian markets. The country’s growing GDP and business opportunities especially in the healthcare and wellbeing markets attract many Finnish companies.

The effects of technology and its productivity expansion for the poor and the middle class, as well as the spreading of accountable governance, have so far been less than expected. Inequality is increasing, as better educated, well connected and more capable people have received most of the benefits. It has been noticed that the utilization of ICT-related products, services and research results from high-income environments entails challenges, especially in remote and low-income communities. An example of this is a project implemented in Peru, where all students of rural schools received computing equipment, but this did not bring any evidence of increasing learning skills in maths or languages. Hardware-centric educational technology projects planned and implemented in highly developed environments for use in developing countries without paying sufficient attention to local contexts are difficult to execute successfully. (World Bank group 2016.)

[easy-tweet tweet=”There are more households in developing countries with a mobile phone than with access to clean water. ” hashtags=”uasjournal, digitalization”]

The worst scenario regarding the export of education would be that citizens in developing countries become disappointed with the education system. At present, people already feel that education wastes their time and lecturers do not offer them access to working life. Another challenge is the quality of studies – there might be a lack of good pedagogical methods or not enough interest in investing teaching. Degree studies take time, and this is time that students could spend working and earning money for the family.

It is extremely important to carefully plan the digital transfer related to learning environments and education. The Indian school system consists of schools of different levels: At one level, schools are completely managed by government agencies. Another level is funded by the government but managed by foundations in a non-profit way. The third level consists of schools both funded and run by foundations on their own. Evidence shows that the mushroomed economic growth in India has concentrated on private schools and colleges and certain regions in an urban-centric way. The quality of education is the top priority, especially in remote areas and among the socially disadvantaged. Technology penetration is particularly crucial in these areas, and western countries have to take responsibility for exporting products in a sustainable way.

Possibilities

Digital tools and platforms in education could offer benefits for developing countries. The Indian government and the states of India have ranked education as one of their priorities and the education system has expanded a lot. Investments in the education sector need to be made to guarantee a skilled and professional workforce. The Government has launched programmes and initiatives to reduce gender inequality, promote girls’ schooling and improve the standard of education. The Indian education sector consists of a number of actors representing the central government, state and regional bodies, as well as private-sector operators.

Indians are well aware of Finland’s high performance in the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) survey, and this offers good opportunities for cooperation in the education sector. Cooperation between educational organizations and businesses opens up prospects for companies to cooperate with each other. Especially digital learning solutions have great potential in Indian markets. When it comes to exporting education, the most important aspect to take into consideration is to understand that products need to be transformed in a suitable way to the specific society and culture.

A good way of exporting the digital education system to developing countries would be to use existing technology, which is available in the local environment and familiar for the local people. In addition to the successful export of digital education and ICT tools, it would be important to motivate and guide teachers and other key persons to use the exported technology in beneficial ways in the future. Supporting teachers and paying attention to pedagogical methods and curriculum material would offer a framework and understanding for the importance and possibilities of new technology. (World Bank Group 2016.) As Finland is boosting its educational export and many companies are planning to expand their business to developing countries, the authors of this article would like to emphasise the importance of paying attention to local environments and local citizens’ ways of living and behaving in those environments. Conducting user-centric surveys before expanding a business idea is not always enough, but extensive research implemented in collaboration with local people would support digital exports, even though it takes extra time, because this enables large-scale business transactions that benefit local people as well.

Conclusion

Education export should be based on understanding the needs of India’s ecosystems. A holistic perspective might be a good approach for looking at these ecosystems. A holistic approach to humans and societal development consists of essential elements such as the participation, agency and empowerment of people and enterprises, and these elements could help with the exploitation of digital tools. According to the OECD’s approach, holistic wellbeing includes physical, mental, emotional and social factors, as well as happiness and life satisfaction (OECD 2015). Without these elements, any digital products exported to developing countries will not scale and be implemented in practice successfully.

Writers

Sanna Juvonen, Senior Lecturer, RDI, M.Sc. (Education), Laurea University of Applied Sciences, sanna.juvonen(at)laurea.fi
Päivi Marjanen, Principal Lecturer, RDI, Ph.D. (Education), Laurea University of Applied Sciences, paivi.marjanen(at)laurea.fi
Francis Adaikalam, Assistant Professor, M.Phil. Social Medicine and Community Health, Loyola College Chennai, India, francis(at)loyolacollege.edu

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