Yes, happiness can be exported


Year after year, international surveys rate Nordic societies the happiest in the world. All Nordic citizens benefit from thoughtfully designed services and resources that nurture individuals and build social trust. The cornerstone of this societal wellbeing is education, and the recognized leader in Nordic educational achievement is Finland. Finnish education begins with a highly-refined program of early-childhood learning that deemphasizes competition and testing. Instead, Finland’s innovative approach fosters play, creativity, independence, confidence, and socio-emotional skills. Research has demonstrated that the result is not only higher academic achievement, but also lifelong health and flourishing. Finnish early-childhood education is thus an essential contributor to Nordic wellbeing, and an exemplary method for maximizing human potential and fulfillment.

Exporting the entire Nordic model would be difficult, but exporting Finland’s approach to early-childhood education is entirely feasible, and doing so can increase human flourishing and wellbeing around the globe. This is the vision of HEI Schools. HEI Schools has developed a licensing model that enables local partners in other countries a way to effectively and easily implement Finnish early-childhood education. HEI Schools provides a complete turnkey school package that includes teacher training, curricula, learning environment design, curated learning materials, and operational support. Every aspect has been carefully designed in close collaboration with leading experts in education and design at HEI School’s institutional partner, the University of Helsinki.

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“Surprisingly, by concentrating on what might be deemed “soft values”, Finland has seen excellent educational results.”

Children are born to learn. By nature. It’s adults who sometimes forget that. We ask them to sit still and push them to read, write and count ever younger. We get them stressed by testing them and make their learning feel like a competitive race. We think that it is giving them a head start for life.

The Finnish education model has been, in many ways, counter to the mainstream: less homework, less books, shorter days, lot’s of play, arts and crafts, moving outdoors in the nature. Surprisingly, by concentrating on what might be deemed “soft values”, Finland has seen excellent educational results. And it has not been about choosing between academic excellence and holistic wellbeing – it’s about creating a virtuous cycle between the two. 

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“Children are not learning best by being taught, therefore learning should not be limited to specific activities or the spaces.”

Children are not learning best by being taught, therefore learning should not be limited to specific activities or the spaces. Rather every situation is seen as having multiple and varied learning opportunities for children. Children’s holistic learning and development is also fostered by adults who learn with them. Play in its different forms is a strong element for learning. Children do not play to learn but they learn while they play.

Each child is different and us adults should embrace and cultivate this diversity. Each child needs to be heard and a culture of trust should be seen as a precondition for children feeling safe, expressing themselves and exploring their world. Active participation gives the child a sense of competence, ownership and commitment to his or her community. This experience is of great significance for the children’s identity. 



Our design challenge was to create a comprehensive learning landscape where children have opportunities for interaction, play, exploration as well as for rest and unwind.


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“Children learn with all their senses and therefore schools should be more than just functional spaces. “

The physical learning environment plays a crucial role in children’s learning experience. Research proves that the physical space can transform your brain by affecting behavior, thoughts, emotions and well-being. Children learn with all their senses and therefore schools should be more than just functional spaces. Children and teachers should experience the physical learning environment as a catalyst for development and inspiration, supporting everyday learning. By creating a harmonious space it enhances the well-being and interaction of children and teachers.

Schools and preschools are often saturated with noise and different type of stimulus. Using extensive amounts of stimulative colors and inspiring elements like pictures, screens etc. in learning environments are generally thought to boost children’s learning. Our design mission takes the opposite stand. All of the elements of HEI Schools design philosophy are research driven.



principles for HEI Schools creative learning space


Maximizing natural lightLighting is a dominant factor in the brain’s ability to focus. Natural light works best to improve behavior, create less anxiety and stress, and improve overall health

Calming the space from unnecessary audio and visual noiseThe less children get external stimuli the more focused children are. When children are focused and balanced they learn better.

Using haptic natural materials and adding greenery to bring nature inside – Experiencing nature and natural elements trick the brainwaves to calm down and focus. All senses are activated.


To support children’s participation we are enabling them to have an active role in using and shaping the space themselves HEI Schools spaces and furniture can be shaped by children. This way we cultivate children’s capacity of autonomous action creating more self-esteem

There are no classrooms but playing and learning is everywhere – HEI Schools enhances curiosity and creativity by having possibilities to move and play in the space. We utilize all surfaces of the space: walls, ceilings and storage systems are all in use just like the floors.

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