Finland and Finns are becoming more international. English is the general language of science and international interaction. At the end of 2019, almost one in ten (9.1%) of all Finnish children had a foreign background. The proportion of children with a foreign background has grown steadily since the 1980s.
The supply of basic education with English as the language of education has expanded significantly. At the same time, the demand for courses held in English also in upper secondary education has increased. That is why it has become more and more important to allow students to take also the matriculation examination in English. This would serve especially those Finnish returnees who have been in English or bilingual primary and secondary education and those for whom the strongest academic language is English. In addition, it would help young people who have moved to Finland because of their parents' work.
For those who might criticize the plan because of financial reasons, I would like to point out that the costs would not differ from teaching in Finnish, provided that the group sizes are large enough. And for those who say that we do not need this as we already have an English matriculation exam, namely the International Baccalaureat, I would like to say that it is not the same thing. The Finnish Matriculation Examination is arranged by a national body, the Matriculation Examination Board, whereas the IB Diploma, which is available in several Finnish schools, is organized by International Baccalaureate Organization. The IB program has been criticized for being expensive with its annual fees and for its inflexibility when it comes to choosing different subjects for the curriculum.
The new Finnish matriculation exam in English would in any case give more options for those who like to consider non-traditional options. It would also make it easier for hundreds of students to access Finnish universities many of which already have English-language Bachelor’s and Master’s programs available.
It would also be reasonable to take some concrete measures to help promote Finnish educational exports. With help of our official matriculation examination in English, we would be able to take a long leap towards increasing our educational export, which has been an undisputed objective for Finland already for a long time.
The National Coalition Party has promoted the idea of matriculation exam in English already since the Sipilä administration (2015-2019), but unfortunately, it has not gained momentum. One of the reasons is political. Namely, the left-wing government has considered the idea to be too elitist and exclusive.
We need internationalization, international experts, and international export products in Finland. The truth is that we cannot attract international experts with such attributes as good climate or central location. Instead, our strengths lie in a safe and clean living environment. One of the cornerstones of Finnish society has been education, but in the future, it has to withstand international comparison even more. We cannot let the language become an obstacle for us. Not in the field of education, but not in the area of export opportunities either.
Pia Liisa Kauma is a Finnish politician who serves a member of the City Council of Espoo, representing the National Coalition Party.
This article was written for MP Talk, a regular column from the Helsinki Times in which Members of The Finnish Parliament contribute their thoughts and opinions. All opinions voiced are entirely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Helsinki Times.
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