Finland’s educational system is consistently ranked as among the world’s best. And now they’re sharing some of their secrets with the world. In particular, the country is translating and sharing its free, online AI course with anyone who speaks an official EU language.
The course, called Elements of AI, launched a year ago in Finland in collaboration with the University of Helsinki and a business partner called Reaktor Inc and was designed to educate the Finnish population on what AI is and what it can (and cannot) do.
The program can be completed at your own pace (although they recommend completing it in six-weeks) and is designed to teach learners of all ages the basics of artificial intelligence will little to no math. From philosophical implications to Bayesian logic, the course covers a large range of information in an easily digestible way. After completing the course, students receive an official certificate.
To date, the course has been used by 1 percent of the Finnish population and has enrolled a total of 245,000 students from 110 countries around the world. The designers of the course say they plan to reach 1 percent of the entire European Union by 2021.
While it’s tempting to see this initiative as purely rooted in didactic generosity, there are some economic undertones behind the project as well. In the original press release for the course, Reaktor notes that countries like the U.S. and China are surging ahead when it comes to artificial intelligence innovation.
Finland’s Economic Minister, Mika Lintilä, said in the release that they must turn to other assets if they hope to compete.
“We’ll never have so much money that we will be the leader of artificial intelligence. But how we use it — that’s something different.”
That something different being the Finnish knack for incredibly effective education systems. Following WWII the country has been able to transform itself from a rural agricultural state to one of technological advancement, not through the export of oil or natural resources but by investing and redesigning the Finnish education system. Free of standardized tests and private schools, the Finnish education system is viewed by many to be one of the best in the world.
So, why not do it again with AI?
In addition to their global AI basics offering, the course is also looking to launch a part two in 2019 (though, that deadline looks like it may be missed) called Building AI. This course will be a little more technical and require a bit of Python coding knowledge. While that part of the course isn’t open yet, eager students can go ahead and sign-up to be notified when it drops.