Fennia Prize 22 Grand Prix: Helsinki International Schools

HEI Schools, Early Childhood Education Concept

Design: Concept and service design: HEI Schools team

The Finnish school system is held in high regard around the world. Its strengths include good learning results and a profound understanding of children’s development. HEI Schools is a daycare centre concept based on the Finnish National Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care: the Finnish daycare centre has been turned into a  product that can be exported.

HEI Schools was born out of a joint idea by experts of the University of Helsinki and early childhood education and care operators in 2015. The concept was developed in a multidisciplinary working group featuring not only pedagogues, but also operators such as architects, designers and graphic designers. The design processes for education and educational contents went hand in hand with the learning environment design.

The HEI Schools product includes a teaching curriculum with supporting materials teacher training, a facility concept and support for the local daycare operator. The facilities are designed to be suitable for children and to support their learning and play. The developers of the HEI Schools concept also created tools, such as pictograms, that can be used to communicate matters such as the daily flow to children. The same pictures can be used everywhere in the world, even if children have not yet learned to read. For teachers, the concept provides continuous training and support, as well as a professional community.

HEI Schools works as a licensed service for companies owning daycare centres. The company also provides educational contents and teacher training as separate products. There are currently around twenty HEI Schools daycare centres and nearly fifty HEI Schools Toolkit schools across five continents. Regardless of location, every one of these schools and daycare centres demonstrates the children’s rights to both learning and play.

Robust pedagogical know-how and design are the cornerstones of HEI Schools. Both have been utilised in the development of facilities, tools and the customer experience alike, whether the customer is a teacher, a child or a child’s parent. The concept is scalable and adaptable to different cultures – a good example of how social design by a responsible operator has a great impact for supporting communities. The utilisation of design increases diversity and improves children’s quality of life. HEI Schools is Finnish know-how and immaterial value export at its best.


Photo: Helsinki International Schools