“Individuals are encouraged to develop themselves rather than to build a community. Historically, however, we have expressly been able to survive as communities,” says Minna Mattila-Aalto, Development Manager for a Finnish company TTS, an organisation aiming to improve to improve the economic efficiency and work safety.

Everyday learning forgotten in cities

Feature. The fragmentation of groups of people and a decline in face-to-face encounters do not bode well for informal or everyday learning. As a result of migration, differences between countries, cities and districts are increasing, and barriers between people are getting higher.

Annu Griñan Photo Pexels

17.12.2019

“Local communities are considered important but, at the same time, the world outside them is becoming detached from people’s own daily life and is being seen as unfamiliar or weird,” says Timo Aro, a researcher of regional and population development. 

From the perspective of learning, such separation is especially bad. 

Development Manager MinnaMattilaAalto who wrote her doctoral thesis on the sociology of interaction, has researched bread queues, popular form of poverty aid in Helsinki, as places for communal learning and identified parallel learning realities in cities. 

She says that, in Finland, learning is still viewed as very formal and hierarchical. 

In population centres, there is no longer a will to find venues for everyday learning. 

“There are those who are educated and in respected professions, and those who are out of reach of learning and society. Some people are very far away from the traditional prototype of a highly educated person. 

Tensions between people growing

Mattila-Aalto works for TTS (Työtehoseura), which provides companies with vocational training and research and development services. 

She is interested, among other things, in informal or everyday learning taking place in working communities. 

In population centres, there is no longer a will to find venues for everyday learning. 

As early as 1938, sociologist Louis Wirth wrote in his classic essay that, in cities, physical closeness increases tensions between people and draws them away from each other. 

Urban spaces are emphasising the same ideal of ‘managing alone’ as in working life. 

Experience of parallel realities is a consequence of this. The inability of people to meet each other forms a barrier to informal learning. 

Mattila-Aalto says that nowadays cities and urban spaces are emphasising the same ideal of ‘managing alone’ as in working life. 

“Carried to a conclusion, you could say that the individuals are encouraged to develop themselves rather than to build a community. Historically, however, we have expressly been able to survive as communities.” 

More meeting points

As a solution to the separation of people, Timo Aro suggests an increasing number of open meeting points located where there are confluences in flows of people. 

“We talk much about lifelong learning, which is changing to become a part of everyday life. Things outside work and education are being increasingly valued. 

Working life has a clear lack for everyday learning.

Mattila-Aalto says that people of all ages from different educational backgrounds should be invited to be involved in the development of services. 

Society has long been built for one target group at a time: children, young people, adults and senior citizens, but such thinking should now be rejected. 

Meeting points are also needed in working life. 

“There are educated people who no longer want to learn or educate themselves, because they do not see a need for it,” says Mattila-Aalto. 

“Working life has a clear lack for everyday learning.” 

This is how Finland grows 

  • In Finland, almost 75% of people with academic degrees already live in the six largest urban regions: Helsinki, Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Lahti and Jyväskylä.
  • Of the entire population, one-third lives within 100 km of the capital Helsinki.
  • Young people, the employed and the educated move around most – 4 in 5 of those moving within the country are under 35 years of age.
  • The concentration of population on the one hand and depopulation on the other is a global phenomenon.
  • According to a UN forecast, by as early as 2050 more than 80% of the world’s population will live in cities.

Expertise provided by researcher Timo Aro.

 

This article will be published in Finnish in Ainamedia in December 2019. Both Elm Magazine and Ainamedia are published by the Finnish Lifelong Learning Foundation. 

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