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Key changes in the Ministry of Education and Culture's administrative branch in the government term

Ministry of Education and Culture
Publication date 27.1.2023 10.00 | Published in English on 30.1.2023 at 17.04

The term of Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government is close to completion. We compiled a summary of key reforms that have taken place in the administrative branch of the Ministry of Education and Culture over the 2019–2023 government term.

At the start of the term, our administrative branch's objectives were grouped in the Government Programme under the strategic theme of 'Competence, education, culture and innovation', and under 'Youth, culture and sport'. The objectives were then translated into concrete actions in the Government Action Plan. Most of the objectives have been met, or there will be time to achieve them before the end of the term.

Equality increased in early childhood education and care

Several reforms were implemented during the government term across early childhood education and care. The ratio of children to education and care staff was reduced in early education settings for children aged three and over, the subjective right to early childhood education and care was restored, and the child’s right to receive general, intensified or intensive special needs support was improved to meet individual development, learning and wellbeing needs. The pilot for providing two years of pre-primary education was launched and will continue until May 2024.

The Right to Learn programme awarded EUR 152 million in grants to developing early childhood education and care.

Achievement gaps were reduced and educational equality increased in pre-primary and basic education

The Right to Learn programme improved the quality of pre-primary and comprehensive school education. The programme helped to prevent achievement gaps between comprehensive school students, to strengthen admission policies prioritising the student's local school, to improve literacy, to reduce group sizes and to reform financing so that it better supports the realisation of equality in education. EUR 241 million in special grants was awarded to finance the programme’s measures in 2020–2022. 

Children's favourite leisure activities provided at schools

The Finnish model for leisure activities aims to provide every child and young person with an opportunity to engage at school in a leisure activity that they enjoy and one that is free of charge. The selection of activities is based on children’s and young people’s own wishes. Nearly all municipalities have introduced the model, and it should become a permanent arrangement for providing leisure activities in connection with schools. Financing for the measure was EUR 14.5 million in 2022.

Free general upper secondary and vocational education for students in compulsory education

Extended compulsory education entered into force in 2021. Compulsory education will end when a young person turns 18 or completes an upper secondary qualification, whichever comes first (matriculation examination or a vocational qualification). 

The reform increased study guidance and support to make it easier for young people to find the right student place. In addition to instruction, textbooks and tools are free of charge for students in compulsory education. 

The aim is for every young person to complete upper secondary education. As requirements for skills, knowledge and competence increase, jobseekers are expected to hold at least an upper secondary qualification. 

Better equality and quality in upper secondary education

In upper secondary education, quality and equality were improved through the Right to Knowledge programme in vocational education and training (VET) and through the quality and accessibility programme in general upper secondary education. 

Right to Knowledge improved equality and narrowed achievement gaps in VET. The programme financing to develop VET was EUR 291 million. Right to Knowledge aimed to provide all students in VET with solid professional skills and a good level of basic skills for work, life and lifelong learning. 

The quality and accessibility programme for general upper secondary education improved the quality of education and ensured accessibility across Finland. As part of this development programme, a quality strategy extending to 2030 was drawn up for general upper secondary education, supporting education providers in developing both quality and quality assurance. The programme financing was EUR 15 million in 2021–2022. 

More people benefitted from higher education opportunities and student incomes improved

In order to raise the level of education and address the shortage of skilled labour, the number of student places at higher education institutions was increased by 12,500 during this government term. Based on the anticipated labour needs, the greatest number of additional student places was allocated to technology, economics and business, computer science, and healthcare and social welfare. 

The new student places are available in higher education programmes where the language of instruction is Finnish or Swedish. In addition, other programmes in healthcare and social welfare and early childhood education and care, decided on in previous years, were implemented during the government term. 

Higher education institutions were given new educational responsibilities. The purpose of educational responsibilities is to provide young people with more diverse opportunities for higher education throughout Finland and to strengthen the impact of higher education institutions on regional development.

Student income levels were increased by raising study grants, income limits for student financial aid and the meal allowance. The conditions for student loan compensation were made more flexible. The reform to provide compulsory education free of charge also extended the right to the school travel subsidy.

Better opportunities for artistic and cultural experiences

Opportunities to gain artistic and cultural experiences improved. Central government financing for performing arts, i.e. music, theatre, dance, circus and performance arts, was reformed to no longer limit the art forms covered by the government aid scheme. In all, 69 creators of theatre, dance and circus and 31 creators of music were approved for the scheme.

EUR 94 million was made available for central government transfers to performing arts in 2022. In addition, the appropriation for independent creators supported through Arts Promotion Centre Finland increased by EUR 6.8 million in the overall reform of the system of central government transfers to local government. 

During the government term, the New Classics Fund was established to improve the working conditions and opportunities for growth for those who have already established their position in the arts. The Fund was started by four foundations together with the state. 

The working group on the future of the cultural sector drew up proposals for the recovery and strengthening of the Finnish arts and cultural sector. The working group proposes that a report on cultural policy be submitted to Parliament during the next government term.

RDI expenditure moves towards the target of four per cent

The RDI roadmap drawn up at the beginning of the government term compiled the ministries’ concrete policy measures for research and development.

Finland’s target is to increase research and development expenditure to four per cent of GDP by 2030. For this purpose, a financing act was drawn up. A parliamentary RDI working group is currently preparing a long-term plan for the use of RDI financing. The plan is to be published in spring.

What else?

You can read more about how the Government Programme and the Government Action Plan are implemented on the Government's website.

Some 200 measures were selected for the Action Plan to promote the objectives of the Government Programme. The measures were divided into strategic groups in line with the Government Programme. Most of the measures in the administrative branch of the Ministry of Education and Culture can be found under the heading 'Finland that promotes competence, education, culture and innovation'.