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Education Policy Report: Equitable education of high quality essential for growing skills requirements and shrinking age cohorts in Finland

Ministry of Education and Culture
Publication date 8.4.2021 13.25
Press release

On Thursday 8 April, the Government submitted to Parliament a report on education policy. The Education Policy Report paves the way for equitable and high-quality education in the 2040s in Finland, where skills requirements are growing and age cohorts are shrinking. The report outlines the target state for education and research when moving forward to the 2040s and the necessary changes in resources, structures and guidance to achieve it.

The Government aims to use the Education Policy Report to set in motion a debate both in Parliament and broadly in society on the importance, problems and solutions of education and research in the future. The report is also intended to serve as the basis for future decision-making on education policy.

“Finland’s success has been based on the aim to ensure equal opportunities to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills in life. Educational equity is an asset we cannot afford to lose.  With the measures in the Education Policy Report, we want make sure our education system can continue to enable everyone's right to learn and grow to their full potential. That is the only way we can be successful in the future too,” said Minister of Education Jussi Saramo.

“It has been necessary to review Finnish education comprehensively. To respond to the big changes in our times, we need a common vision of how to develop education and research over parliamentary terms. The most important thing is to put people, learners, at the centre and to further step up interaction between education and the surrounding society, said Minister of Science and Culture Annika Saarikko.

Target state in 2040: Finland has a strong educational and cultural foundation

In the Education Policy Report, the goal the Government has set is that Finland will be a nation with a cultural and educational foundation in 2040 that draws on effective education, research and culture that are of high quality. Finland's international competitiveness and the wellbeing of its citizens build on this foundation.

The aim is that in 2040 educational equity and accessibility will have improved, and that Finland's level of education and competence will rank among the world's best. Education and research contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals in society as a whole.

Selected items from the objectives and measures for education and research up to 2040:

Finnish society is facing major challenges: demographic changes and regional disparities, and rapid advances in the world of work and technology all demand new approaches and structures at all levels of education. Continuous learning, close cooperation between work and competence bring people protection in the event of restructuring and a competitive advantage for companies. 

To meet the challenges, the report proposes an overhaul of legislation and funding that would safeguard an equitable realisation of high quality for educational and cultural rights throughout the country. Legislation governing early childhood education and care, pre-primary education, primary and lower secondary education will be brought together into one clear package. It is proposed that funding for education be boosted by allocating the imputed savings from shrinking age cohorts to develop early childhood education and care and primary and lower secondary education. It is proposed that the financing system be amended to include needs-based funding, i.e. financing for positive discrimination. This will safeguard equity in learning. 

Safeguarding equitable education that is free of charge, of high quality and accessible will demand significant investment of public funds into education and research in the future. A higher level of education and competence can only be achieved with adequate resources for education and research and wiser allocation of resources. The report aims to achieve a commitment to investment in education that spans over parliamentary terms. Long-term financing that is predictable is a prerequisite for achieving the objectives set for education and research. The shortfall in learning and wellbeing caused by the COVID-19 epidemic must be fixed. Students of the coronavirus epoch must not become a lost generation of learning.

One of the objectives in the Education Policy Report is to reduce the fees charged for early childhood education and care. The long-term objective is to make early childhood education and care free of charge (a minimum of 4 hours a day).

Learning outcomes in primary and lower secondary education will be raised and learning disparities will be narrowed down by fostering wellbeing and inclusion in early childhood education and care and in school communities. This will be implemented by means of a new national binding model whereby school communities work collaboratively. Skills in literacy and numeracy will be strengthened and particular attention will be paid to developing the skills for critical thinking among children and young people.

General education will not be set against vocational education and training. Cooperation will be harnessed in upper secondary education and existing legislative or other obstacles in this area will be removed. In vocational education and training, general knowledge and basic skills will be strengthened, without undermining the acquisition of vocational competence. This way we can ensure that students have genuine opportunities for pursuing further studies and for upskilling during their working life. 

In upper secondary education, new technologies and practices will be harnessed to build personalised study paths for each learner. An apposite model of positive discrimination will also be developed for vocational education and training.

Projections show that in the future there will be a growing demand for tertiary-level expertise. One of the objectives is that by 2030 at least 50 per cent of all young adults in Finland will have completed a higher education degree. To achieve this, student intake in higher education institutions will be increased, without compromising the quality of education. The choices offered by higher education institutions will be developed on the basis of research. The aim is to triple the number of foreign degree students by 2030, and 75% of foreign graduates should find a job in Finland.

With regard to science, the aim is that in the future Finland will be an inspiring place to carry out research, and the research environments will be world class. Top talent will move to Finland and enhance Finland's skills level. Moreover, public research funding will also encourage private sector investment in expertise and RDI activities.

An important step towards achieving these goals is that the national RDI Roadmap (2020) be implemented effectively and to a high standard.

As part of higher education, the availability and competence of teachers and other staff in education and child care will be secured, by measures such as improving the knowledge base of staff members, by foresight and by the right scope of education and training, and by ensuring that the quality of education is based on research.

The report also outlines the development needs in areas such as liberal adult education, continuous learning, student financial aid, Swedish-speaking education, education for those with an immigrant background, learning for people with disabilities, and Saami education.

Education Policy Report (in Finnish)

Photos from the press conference (Flickr)

Anita Lehikoinen, Permanent Secretary, tel. +358 29 5330 182
Petri Haltia, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Education and Culture, tel. +358 29 5330 096

Annika Saarikko Education Higher education and research Jussi Saramo Research Student financial aid Vocational education and training