Photo: Jussi Hellsten / Helsinki Partners


The majority of young Helsinki residents transition directly from comprehensive school to secondary education. More young people are now primarily applying to upper secondary education, while certain vocational programs remain popular. However, there are socioeconomic and regional disparities in the educational paths of young people in Helsinki. These findings are based on the new statistical publication "Youth Education in Helsinki - Path from Comprehensive School Forward" by the City Executive Office.

With the implementation of extended compulsory education, all Finnish youth under the age of 18 are obliged to apply for and continue their education in either upper secondary or transitional education. Almost all 16-17-year-old Helsinki residents fulfill their compulsory education requirements. In the fall of 2022, 98 percent of 16-year-olds and 96 percent of 17-year-olds in Helsinki were enrolled in some form of education eligible for compulsory education, with the majority attending upper secondary education leading to a degree. The situation of any young person not fulfilling their compulsory education is investigated.

More young people preferentially choose high school (lukio)

In Helsinki, the popularity of upper secondary education as the first-choice application has been increasing. In the spring 2022 joint application process, approximately 5,900 Helsinki residents under the age of 18 applied to post-comprehensive school education. Of these applicants, 70 percent applied to upper secondary education as their first-choice, while 26 percent applied to vocational education. The number of young people applying primarily to high school (lukio) was more than a fifth higher in 2022 compared to 2014.

Vocational education faces competition in certain fields of study. These include ICT, commerce and administration, as well as humanities and arts programs in 2022. At the same time, several educational programs have fewer primary applicants than available spots. This applies to fields such as technology and services.

Socioeconomic disparities in educational paths

There are socioeconomic disparities in the educational paths of young people in terms of gender and mother tongue groups. Boys in Helsinki complete comprehensive school more frequently than girls, and girls are more likely to continue to high school, while boys tend to pursue vocational education. There is no difference between genders regarding the neglect of compulsory education in the 16-year-old age group.

Young people with a non-Finnish mother tongue generally take longer to complete their basic education compared to their Finnish-speaking counterparts. Nearly one-third of 16-year-old boys with a non-Finnish mother tongue were still completing comprehensive school in the fall, while the corresponding figure for girls was just under a quarter. Participation in upper secondary education among young people with an immigrant background is low, especially for those who have immigrated themselves. However, for young people with an immigrant background born in Finland, the situation is considerably better, although it still falls below the average for the entire age group.

Variations in youth education participation across Helsinki's regions

The different regions of Helsinki vary in terms of the proportion of young people enrolled in degree-oriented upper secondary education and whether they choose high school or vocational education. For example, in Kulosari, nine out of ten 16-18-year-olds study in high school, whereas in Jakomäki, only just over a third do so. On the other hand, the proportion of young people enrolled in vocational education is four times higher in Jakomäki compared to Kulosari. Often, the higher the proportion of young people studying vocational education in an area, the lower the overall participation rate in upper secondary education. The disparities between regions have remained relatively stable and reflect the socioeconomic profile of the population in those areas, including the educational attainment of the adult population.


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