Gulf of Persia region
Jaakko Skantsi joined Finland’s Embassy in Abu Dhabi as a regional specialist in September 2019. He gained much knowledge about the Arab Emirates in his role as a teacher mentor and because he worked in EduCluster Finland prior to that, where he was involved with matters such as quality assurance and curricula in Finnish international schools operating in the region. Indeed, Skantsi became familiar with the ins and outs of sharing Finnish knowledge, expertise and educational innovations well before he started as a senior specialist. He also has experience as a class teacher, teacher trainer and head teacher.
Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, colloquially known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), countries – channelling more investments into education and research
GCC countries (Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) or the Gulf Arab countries or the countries of the Gulf of Arabia – this region has many names. Of the countries in the region, Saudi Arabia is almost five times larger and has a population one and a half times bigger than the rest of the GCC countries put together. In line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision for 2030, it is currently investing in the development of the nation, including in education and research. The Dubai emirate is generally the most familiar of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is the commercial hub of the region and will host the world exhibition (Dubai Expo 2020), being the first country in the Middle East to do so. Finland will be erecting a unique and extensive pavilion called LUMI at the Dubai Expo.
The United Arab Emirates have the largest network of private schools in the world. In addition, the country has invested quite extensively in raising the standard of research and higher education. Most recently, the world's first university focusing on artificial intelligence, the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, was established. It is the only university in the region offering exclusively Master's and Doctoral Programmes. Among the smaller emirates, for example Sharjah, has a clear intention to raise its profile in education and research.
Oman, Qatar, Kuwaitin and Bahrain, have all expressed interest in Finnish education and research. Since the region is extensive, Team Finland Knowledge will concentrate mainly on the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar at least to begin with. The focus can naturally be adjusted should Finnish actors express the need to work with other countries in the region.
Finland and the GCC countries – well-functioning partnerships, new opportunities
There is a Finnish international Qatar-Finland International School in Qatar and a Finland-Oman School in Oman, both of which have employed Finnish teachers and head teachers. Teacher education, technical and vocational education and training (TVET), early childhood education and care, entrepreneurship education and special needs education are of interest not only to these countries but also to other countries in the region, and there are successful case examples in the region. Natural sciences are also valued in all countries in the region. Many students are also leaving the area to complete their degree studies abroad. Attracting even just a small number of them to Finland could equate to thousands of students.
Education House Finland, a commercial enterprise in Dubai, offers Finnish operators regional visibility under the umbrella of the company. In matters related to business and local commercial environments, it is worth contacting our expert Business Finland team in Dubai. The need for Finnish actors to be present may come as a surprise; indeed, it is very important to have a reliable local partner. Embassies, Team Finland Knowledge specialists and Business Finland may build bridges but, for obvious reasons, cannot represent individual Finnish organisations. Although challenges exist in the GCG region and there are differences among countries, there are nevertheless opportunities for Finnish actors for both commercial and scientific cooperation.
Jaakko Skantsi, Senior Specialist
Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Edustustot, Abu Dhabin -suurlähetystö (ABO)