Youth in revolt!

During the recent past it has occurred to me that there is an increasing number of organisations, movements, and events founded and fueled by young adults in their 20s and 30s with higher education backgrounds. Concrete action and working with and around real life issues, companies, and phenomena seem to be in the core of these all. This fast growth of initiatives that share similar goals and features makes me think that there’s something bigger going on. It looks like the millennials are not fully satisfied with what they’ve got and are now taking the future to their own hands. To me the dissatisfaction seems to be very strongly related to insecurity about managing working life, and disappointment towards education that does not develop these skills sufficiently.

This kind of unhappiness towards existing conditions is a common theme in Freirean pedagogy which argues that true freedom for the oppressed, and also for the oppressor, takes place only after a struggle and requires self-empowerment of the oppressed. Even though the struggles Freire talks about are much different from what I, for example, have experienced in any aspect of my life, the driving forces behind LINKO were also based on unhappiness, frustration, and dissatisfaction. Too many slow bureaucratic systems in the education sector, top-down management, and seeing an increased number of unengaged students and unengaged teachers only grew my thrive to find a way to make education more dynamic and participative to support our fundamental curiosity towards the world and learning. Until LINKO, I myself also felt like in many cases I was just part of repetitive action instead of development and problem solving oriented activities. And what is more, too often we seem to stay within our own bubbles which is not a fruitful foundation for creative innovations and increased sense of communality. It was time to find ways to break out of our bubbles.

For this reason four, students of the Faculty of Educational Sciences of Helsinki University originally got together and kicked off Linko, which quickly grew into a huge community with a shared focus of changing education of today.Taking the step outside our comfort zone together has offered us a sense of belonging and competence. At the same time, it has also taught us a lot about team working, problem solving, lifelong learning and learning skills, and recognizing our own and others’ strengths. We realized that LINKO not only offered a way to influence education but it also gave us the chance to gain skills that are needed in working life.

  “ I get inspired every time I see someone succeeding in what they do, when they gain confidence or when they have an epiphany.”                  (Juha-Matti Santala, Boost)   Pic: Saana Söderlund

“ I get inspired every time I see someone succeeding in what they do, when they gain confidence or when they have an epiphany.”                (Juha-Matti Santala, Boost)

Pic: Saana Söderlund

But Linko is just one of many. Juha-Matti Santala from Boost Turku explains that their goal is to inspire people to try and do something rather than do nothing. That way changing the world becomes possible. The mental shift from doing what is told by our bosses, or doing things one way because they’ve always been done that way, is not constructive and effective.

Slow and bureaucratic organisations are not flexible enough to support very well this kind of new doer culture. Luckily, today students are able to get study credits from some universities such as Helsinki University and Turku University for participating in events and programs that support interdisciplinary doer mentality i.e. Linko Education Hackathons or Boost’s Startup Journeys. It is wonderful to see that academic institutions support movements through which academic knowledge is being connected with practical activities, real life enterprises, and situations where occupational boundaries are crossed. At the same time, the participants get to develop their teamworking, problem solving and other 21st century skills.

Enabling the development of the skills mentioned above was in the heart of the psychology students of Helsinki University as well, when they started to build up their own hackathon called Psyhack. According to Jaakko Sahimaa, one of the organizers of Psyhack, “psychology is a field of science that has not moved forward very much in the past, and the education is lacking appropriate contacts to working life and practicality. One goal of the event was to send a message that practicality is something the psychology students need more in their studies.”

 Pic: Saana Söderlund

Pic: Saana Söderlund

All these initiatives and other similar movements are a clear sign that higher education today does not offer sufficient working life skills or opportunities to develop them. I, like so many others, have taken a step forward because we believe that by uniting academic knowledge with practical surroundings, tools and support - driven by active individuals - we can provide students with skills that are needed in the future working life.