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OECD indicators: In Finland vocational education and training appeals to people of all ages

Ministry of Education and Culture
Publication date 8.9.2020 12.00
Press release
Tilastoa esittävä kuva

On Tuesday, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published its Education at a Glance, an annual publication of indicators used for comparing education systems. It examines areas such as the level of education, enrolment in education, education and training costs, the provision of education and instruction, and the number and employment levels of tertiary-educated graduates in the OECD member countries and some partner countries. This year, Education at a Glance includes a focus on vocational education and training. The data mainly relate to 2018.

In Finland, the number of young people who choose vocational education and training is above average 

Vocational education and training is popular in Finland and attracts a wide range of people of different ages to study. By international standards, vocational education and training is also an internationally attractive option among young people in Finland. Both young people who have completed comprehensive school and are studying for their first qualification as well as adults who wish to update their skills and develop their competence to meet the needs of working life enrol in vocational upper secondary education.  

In Finland, 72% of all secondary school students (ISCED 3) are enrolled in vocational education and training, whereas in OECD countries the corresponding figure is 42%. The high figure in Finland is explained by the number of adult students. In many other countries, vocational education and training effectively involves training young people for the job market, which means that the average age of students is naturally low. 

One factor that strengthens the status of vocational education and training in Finland is the general qualification it offers, which is one that qualifies for further studies. Although vocational education paves the way not only to working life but also to further studies in many other countries too, this is not the case everywhere. 

Technology the most popular field of study in vocational education and training  

Technology is by far the largest field of study in vocational education and training. On average, 33% of students in upper secondary vocational education and training in OECD countries graduate from the field of technology. 

It is the most popular field of study in Finland too. However, its share is clearly smaller (24%) than the OECD average, and the share of those studying for a qualification in healthcare and social welfare is almost the same (22%).

Most students in upper secondary vocational education and training (55%) in both OECD and EU countries are males. In Finland, the number of males and females in vocational education and training is about the same when all students are included in the comparison, not just the age group of those who have completed comprehensive school.   

In OECD countries, on average, only 13% of those who have completed a qualification in technology are females. Correspondingly, females are over-represented among those who have completed a qualification in the healthcare and welfare sectors. Females account for an average of 81% in these sectors.

Finland still lagging behind in the enrolment rate of children aged three to five

The international reference figure for early childhood education and care (ECEC) that has attracted the most visibility in Finland is the enrolment rate. While raising the enrolment rate in early childhood education and care has been an educational policy objective for several years in Finland, it remains below the international average for children aged between three and five. In Finland, 82% of children in this age group are enrolled in ECEC compared with the OECD average of 88%.  

While the ECEC enrolment rate in Finland has increased since the early 2000s, the rate of growth in other OECD countries has been roughly equally fast.

Finland's position dropped in the comparison of tertiary-educated graduates

In the context of higher education, the indicator that is followed the most in the Education at a Glance publication is the percentage of tertiary-educated people in different countries. 
The OECD average is rising, reaching 45% in 2019 among young adults aged between 25 and 34. The percentage of tertiary-educated young adults in Finland aged between 25 and 34 has also been rising relative to 2009, but the rate of growth has not been as rapid as in OECD countries on average. 

In 2019, 42% of those aged between 25 and 34 had completed tertiary education in Finland.

Many benefits of education 

The level of education has an impact on securing a job in all OECD countries. The average employment rate for young adults (ages 25 to 34) in OECD countries is 61% for those without upper secondary education, 78% for those with upper secondary education and 85% for those with tertiary education. 

Finland's figures for those with upper secondary and tertiary education are almost the same as the OECD average, but it is worth noting that the employment rate for those without upper secondary education in Finland is only 49%, which is well below the OECD average.

Schools closed everywhere in spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic 

A new and topical issue in Education at a Glance this year was the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergency conditions it generated. The publication deliberates the possible short-term and longer-term effects of the pandemic on education, learning and competence. 

According to the report, schools were closed due to COVID-19 at least to some extent in all OECD countries by the end of March 2020. In most countries, schools were closed nationwide but in some countries only in the worst high-risk areas. 

In the countries included in the OECD study, schools were at least partially closed for 7 to 19 weeks from early March until the end of June, with the average closure being 14 weeks. In Finland, comprehensive schools were mainly closed for 8.5 weeks in the spring, while general upper secondary schools and vocational schools were closed until the end of the spring term, in other words 10.5 weeks in total. One reason why educational institutions in Finland were closed for a shorter period than elsewhere is because the school term in Finland ends earlier than in many other countries; in Finland it ends already in late May or early June. 
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- Early childhood education and care, comprehensive school education and upper secondary education: Petra Packalen (Finnish National Agency for Education), tel. +358 295 331 162
- Higher education: Jukka Haapamäki (Ministry of Education and Culture), tel. +358 295 330 088

Reports with links leading to background statistics are freely available on the OECD website

Early childhood education and care Education General education Higher education and research Vocational education and training