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Janeli Kuustik from Estonia and Sofia Jaldiani from Iran take part in a preparatory course for immigrants in beauty and fashion at Helsinki Vocational College.THE Finnish National Board of Education has expressed its concern over preparatory education for immigrants. According to a recent report by the Educational Board, the education does not reach those immigrant groups it is primarily targeted at.

Sirkka-Liisa Kärki, Head of Unit for vocational education and training from the Educational Board, states that contrary to the goals of the Board, young immigrants are left outside of the training programmes when educational institutes select adults with Finnish skills and qualifications obtained in their home countries.

“Preparatory education is too often taken to mean language training, but there are other options for learning the language and many immigrants could top up their vocational qualifications in adult education,” Kärki comments.

Kärki also finds it worrying that one in five students on the one-year training programme does not complete the course.

“Not everyone is even planning to carry on to vocational training,” says Kärki.

27 native languages

• In 2011, there were 3,100 applicants for preparatory courses, around 1,200 of whom were admitted to the training. The largest groups were Russians (22%), Somalis (11%) and Estonians (5.5%).

• Students had 27 different languages as their mother tongues.

• Out of the applicants, 25% had obtained basic education in their home country and 38% vocational training while 17% had qualifications from higher education.

• After preparatory education, 34% of the students attended vocational training, 3.5% went on to study for a further vocational qualification and 11% entered working life.

Educational institutes plan their course programmes within guidelines given by the Educational Board and are also responsible for the student selection process. Kärki does not, however, lay the blame on educational institutes even though she hopes that their practices will change. She did not comment on whether setting an age limit on the courses could prove an unambiguous solution. The report will now be forwarded to the Ministry of Education and Culture.

“We’ll have to wait and see what the ministry decides,” Kärki says, passing the ball to the Ministry’s court.

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HEIKKI METSÄMÄKI – STT
NIINA WOOLLEY – HT
LEHTIKUVA / SARI GUSTAFSSON

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