By Tuija Turunen
Lead of the UArctic Thematic Network on Teacher Education for Social Justice and Diversity in Education, Dean, Faculty of
Education, University of Lapland
Teachers can inspire, build resilience and open up new perspectives on living in and working for the Arctic. A good teacher sees potential in every student they work with. It is essential that teachers working with Arctic children and youth are committed to the region and the communities they work with, and also see their professional work as key in their students’ future.
The UArctic Thematic Network on Teacher Education for Social Justice and Diversity in Education, established in 2015, aims to share understanding and knowledge about the special features of the Arctic teaching profession and on how to best educate future teachers for careers in the North. Currently, the network consists of 19 educational institutions, half of them Nordic, working in the fields of teacher education and indigenous education. The network activities so far have included face-to-face symposia, online seminars, shared teaching activities and conference presentations. The future plans include shared research activities named ”Seeing Education with the Northern Eyes.” A long-term goal is to develop a virtual research and resource centre for high-quality teacher education research and practice.
Teacher education has a specific societal task in Nordic communities. Education should provide equal opportunities for a good life. Qualified workers and future experts do not exist without inspiring teachers and quality education. Moreover, there is strong research evidence that education is the key to well-being and social sustainability. The opposite also applies: lack of education potentially leads to marginalization and even radicalization. Thus, attracting committed, high-performing teachers is one of the key professional issues in the Arctic territories. When successful, teachers educate the next generation to be willing and capable to work for the Arctic in the Arctic, and to do so proudly.
The importance of teacher education has been noticed also at the governmental level. Finland chairs the Arctic Council starting May 2017, and one of the main themes of the Finnish chairmanship is education. Moreover, the Arctic Council’s Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG) approved the initiative of the Thematic Network called “Teacher Education for Diversity and Equality in the Arctic” as a new project in their meeting in Kotzebue, Alaska in February 2017. Finland, Canada, Norway and Russia will co-lead the project. This is a great opportunity to extend the societal impact of the Thematic Network, interact with policy makers, and create a better future for Arctic children, youth and communities.