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Highlights of the Finnish education policy in autumn 2019 – current events in a nutshell

26.11.2019 - 15:40 News
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This autumn is big for the education policy. After the Finnish parliamentary elections, the cuts to education funding are finally over. Here is a brief summary of the current events in the Finnish education policy.

Education policy: the cuts to education funding are finished

After the Finnish parliamentary elections in the spring 2019, a new five-party government was formed by the Social Democratic Party’s Antti Rinne. In the Ministry of Education and Culture, the ministers’ portfolio was shared between the Minister of Education Li Andersson (Left) and the Minister of Science and Culture Hanna Kosonen (Centre).

The government programme highlighted competence and education and the name of the government programme was “Inclusive and Competent Finland”. The common thread of the government programme is the strengthening of equality and involvement. The Government increases its permanent funding for education in the state budget with over EUR 330 million. An additional EUR 700 million is allocated as a one-off investment. The Trade Union of Education in Finland OAJ is pleased with the fact that, for the time being, the cuts to education funding over eight years are finished.

OAJ is pleased with the fact that, for the time being, the cuts to education funding over eight years are finished.

Positive development in early childhood education

One of the first tasks of the new government is to reinstate the subjective right to early childhood education while the decrease of the personnel ratio will be cancelled. The Government’s objective is to increase participation in early childhood education. For example, the free-of-charge experiment for children under 5 years of age will be expanded. The Government has also promised to start a pilot programme for extending early childhood education into two years, so that pre-primary education would start at the age of five. There have also been promises for sorting out the learning support for early childhood education. However, one of the biggest challenges is the serious shortage of early education teachers. Even though universities have increased the amount of student places for early education, there are no quick fixes for the situation.

One of the biggest challenges is the serious shortage of early education teachers. Even though universities have increased the amount of student places for early education, there are no quick fixes for the situation.

According to the new government’s programme, “private early education services must operate with the same quality criteria as public early education services” and must have an operating permit in the future. The Government will investigate “whether limiting the pursuit of profits can be extended to concern early childhood education in addition to basic education”. This has been an important objective for OAJ and was efficiently communicated to politicians prior to the elections.

Basic education development programme

Strengthening the three-tier support and examining the legislation for special needs education are now on the Government’s to-do list. OAJ has also strongly promoted the readjustment of teacher resources, which the Minister has promised to investigate. The Government allocates an annual EUR 60 million to basic education and especially to the development of equality within basic education.

OAJ has also strongly promoted the readjustment of teacher resources, which the Minister has promised to investigate.

The possibilities for hobbies for school children is also being developed according to the Icelandic example so that the model is developed into Finland’s own model.

Extended compulsory education

Preparations for extending the compulsory school age to 18 have been initiated. The objective is to bring the decrease of the national competence level to a halt and to ensure that every person completes secondary education. OAJ has been in favour of extending compulsory education. On the other hand, there are many related concerns as the change is major as well as expensive and there is some uncertainty about the reserved funds, EUR 107 million annually. The Government has outlined that the fees for secondary education would be completely removed.

The Government has outlined that the fees for secondary education would be completely removed.

Currently, teaching is free, but students have the responsibility for financing the costs of learning materials. Who has the responsibility for ensuring that a young person secures a secondary education place? Who is in charge of ensuring that, after securing a place, a young person actually attends to secondary education? What measures will be put into place to ensure that everyone actually learns as well as receives teaching and the required support? How are free transportation, learning materials and living defined or limited? Such questions are currently being solved by the initiative’s preparation team. The reform is planned to enter into force in 2021.

New syllabus for general upper secondary education is published and enters into force in August 2021

The new Act on General Upper Secondary Education entered into force on 1 August 2019 as part of the general upper secondary education reform. The right to unlimited passed test re-sits has already increased the number of students re-taking the matriculation exam. However, many legal obligations, such as special needs education, cooperation in higher education and the right to personal instruction and post-instruction, only enter into force with the new syllabus.

The national syllabus was published in November and local work for its implementation has begun. Since the spring 2019, the matriculation exam has been completely digitalised in Finland and the experiences have been good. The requirement for five compulsory exams (currently four) in the matriculation exam enters into force for those beginning their studies in the year 2022.

The national syllabus was published in November and local work for its implementation has begun.

Vocational education and training in trouble

Vocational education and training were thoroughly renewed with the reform act entering into force on 1 January 2018. The reform included the elimination of barriers between young people’s and adults’ vocational education and training and the gathering of education and training offerings, of funding and of guidance into a unified whole under the Ministry of Education and Culture.

OAJ has investigated the situation of the new reform in education institutions with a questionnaire for teachers. Due to the extensive cuts by the previous government, the current resources are insufficient and there are too few teachers. Workplaces lack information about the reform and cooperation possibilities with educational institutions.

The current resources are insufficient and there are too few teachers.

The new government has promised to allocate an annual EUR 80 million for the hiring of new teachers. The money is currently being distributed and only the future will tell whether the field of education recovers from the financial cuts.

Higher education institutions

The Vision for Higher Education and Research in 2030 was drawn up in cooperation with stakeholder groups in Finland, which the new government has also committed to. The vision includes a commitment to increasing the share of higher education graduates to 50 per cent of young adults between the ages 25 of 34 by 2030. In order to achieve this, the number of available starting places must increase and the rate of persons completing their education must improve.

The number of available starting places must increase and the rate of persons completing their education must improve.

Higher education institutions are happy to increase the number of students but are also concerned as no extra funding for increasing the available starting places has been promised. Higher education institutions received a small increase to the core funding in the government programme negotiations. That increase, however, will be rendered useless should the number of available starting places not receive separate funding.

OAJ is an active influencer of education policy both nationally and internationally. Read more about the matters we influence.

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