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Schools and educational institutions switching to distance learning – salaries will be paid as normal

17.03.2020 - 12:12 News
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Basic education, upper secondary education, adult education and higher education units are switching to distance learning in order to slow down the spreading of the coronavirus. The educational institutions will switch to remote teaching latest on 18 March in accordance with the Ministry of Education and Culture’s recommendation. OAJ stands by the Government’s policy and regards the ensuring of the teachers’ health and livelihood as extremely important during such exceptional circumstances.

According to today’s recommendation by the Government, basic education, upper secondary education, adult education and higher education institutions will for the time being switch to distance learning in order to slow down the spreading of the coronavirus.

The institutions will switch over to distance learning latest on 18 March 2020 and, according to the current estimations, will continue with distance learning until 14 April 2020.

According to OAJ’s information, the actual decision of switching over to distance learning is made by the Regional State Administrative Agencies based on the Ministry of Education and Culture’s recommendation.

The Finnish Government’s actions to prevent the spreading of the coronavirus are based on the Communicable Diseases Act. The decision to arrange distance learning at basic education institutions is based on the Basic Education Act’s section 18 providing for special teaching arrangements.

The Government has heard OAJ’s viewpoints regarding the exceptional situation

The coronavirus has spread rapidly everywhere, including Finland. The outbreak has caused a lot of concern among OAJ members. While many workplaces have switched to remote working, teachers have been going to work to day care centres, schools and educational institutions with hundreds of students normally up until now.

– This situation has once again shown how teachers are the backbone of our entire society. They deserve all the support for their work now and in the future. In the future, especially teachers of the smallest children will have a special role in the safeguarding of our society’s operations, says OAJ President Olli Luukkainen.

According to Luukkainen, OAJ stands behind the Finnish Government’s policy. During the past week and weekend, he has been closely in touch with the Government regarding the actions required by the coronavirus outbreak.

– This is an exceptional situation and, therefore, exceptional measures are now required. It is essential to act in line with the expert recommendations of the health authorities. It is great that different actors have wanted to hear OAJ’s viewpoints when looking for solutions and ways forward in this difficult situation, Luukkainen says.

The situation is exceptional and, therefore, exceptional measures are now required.

Early childhood education and preschool education will be kept in operation

Switching to distance learning does not apply to the entire education system. The early childhood and preschool education units will remain open in order to guarantee that the employees working in sectors critical to the functioning of society will be able to continue working.

However, parents with children in early childhood education institutions are requested to keep their children home, if possible.

Pre-primary education organised in schools and contact teaching for grades 1–3 will continue for the children of parents working in sectors critical to the functioning of society.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will define within the upcoming days which early childhood education employees belong to the coronavirus risk groups and what the procedure for these employees will be.

– It is crucially important to protect the health of the early childhood education teachers. The importance of their role for the entire Finnish society is once again highlighted during these exceptional circumstances. Their importance should also be evident in the solutions of the labour market negotiations, Luukkanen says.

No changes to the teachers’ salary payment

Switching to distance learning will not cause changes to the payment of the teachers’ salaries.

The teacher’s obligation to work and the employer’s right to direct remain during remote work as well. The right to direct means that the employer can, for example, order remote teaching to be carried out in the workplace, if the teacher does not have the required equipment at home.

Olli Luukkainen highlights that it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the teachers have all the necessary equipment to arrange remote teaching.

– When arranging remote teaching, it is simply the educational institution’s responsibility to ensure that the teachers have the required equipment and that teaching can be arranged. 

It is the employer’s responsibility to make sure that the teachers have all the equipment required for arranging remote teaching.

The Finnish National Agency for Education will publish guidelines for arranging distance learning on Tuesday. Information about this can already be found on the Ministry of Education and Culture’s and the Finnish National Agency for Education’s websites.

The news article will be updated with new information as required.

OAJ instructing employee representatives and members

As the Government’s policy and implementation of distance learning will undoubtedly raise questions among OAJ members, OAJ will instruct the employee representatives regarding these matters at the beginning of the week. Some of the answers will be gathered in an e-mail that will be sent to the members.

In order to make sure that all e-mails are received, the members are recommended to ensure that their contact details are up to date. You can find instructions for updating your contact information here.

This is what the Government outlined on 16 March regarding education

  1. Early childhood education and care units and the pre-primary education organised in connection with them will be kept in operation. This will ensure access to early childhood education and care for the children of employees in sectors critical to the functioning of society and enable parents to work. According to the government recommendations, parents and guardians who are able to arrange childcare at home are requested to do so.
  2. The premises of schools, educational institutions, universities and universities of applied sciences as well as civic education and other liberal education institutes will be closed down, and contact teaching will be suspended. As an exception, however, pre-primary education organised in schools and contact teaching for grades 1–3 will continue for the children of parents working in sectors critical to the functioning of society. A further exception is that contact teaching will continue to be arranged for pupils who require it according to a decision on special-needs support; however, parents and guardians who are able to arrange childcare at home are still requested to do so. The aforementioned arrangements will be put into operation on 18 March 2020.
  3. Instead of contact teaching, the teaching and guidance provided by all universities, universities of applied sciences and vocational education institutes, general upper secondary education and basic education providers will be organised to the widest extent possible in alternative ways, including distance learning, various digital learning environments and solutions and, where necessary, self-learning.
  4. The matriculation examinations will be carried out by 23 March 2020 according to the condensed schedule published on 13 March 2020, taking into account the instructions issued by the health authorities.
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