Minister of Education and Culture Sanni Grahn-Laasonen (NCP) was on 15 February, 2017, presented with a report detailing over 40 measures to promote educational attainment among the growing immigrant population of Finland.
Minister of Education and Culture Sanni Grahn-Laasonen (right) was on 15 February, 2017, presented with a report detailing over 40 measures to promote educational attainment among the growing immigrant population of Finland.

Sanni Grahn-Laasonen (NCP), the Minister of Education and Culture, has been presented with a report detailing over 40 measures to respond to the education needs arising from the growing number of immigrants and asylum seekers in Finland.

The Ministry of Education and Culture assigned a steering group to design short and long-term measures to promote the educational attainment of young people of immigrant background in late 2015. The steering group draws in its final report particular attention to the need to improve the Finnish and Swedish skills of immigrant pupils and students.

“Studies indicate that language learning has a clear association with other learning,” said Grahn-Laasonen. “Going forward we have to integrate language learning into all aspects of education, especially into vocational and on-the-job training: it has to be possible to learn the language while learning other skills, or else the journey to education and the working life becomes too long.”

A change, she said, is consequently required in both the attitudes and ways of operating in Finland.

The Finnish Government should according to the steering group begin supporting the efforts of foreign-language speakers to learn Finnish or Swedish already in early-childhood education. The objective, it adds, should be to ensure all foreign-language children participate in early-childhood education at least on a part-time basis.

The proposal would cost an estimated four million euros a year.

The steering group proposes that the maximum eligibility period for state subsidies for organising language courses to learners of immigrant backgrounds be raised from six to eight years to ensure the subsidies also cover possible general upper-secondary education.

The proposal is estimated to cost 3.5–4 million euros a year.

The steering group also proposes that the general language skill requirements for vocational education be abolished, while increasing Finnish and Swedish teaching in vocational education.

It points out that 13 per cent of people of immigrant origin completing basic education and 75 per cent of participants in integration training currently fail to satisfy the language requirements for vocational education.

“The risk of exclusion from education and working life is high in such circumstances,” the steering group writes.

The most expensive measure, with an estimated annual cost of 5.1 million euros, set forth in the report is the removal of participation fees to liberal adult education as of 2018. The Government would thus have to cover 100 per cent, instead of the current 57 or 65 per cent, of the costs of liberal adult education.

Supporting Immigrants in Higher Education in Finland (SIMHE), a programme launched to improve the access of immigrants and asylum seekers who have already participated or are eligible to participate in higher education, should be developed further, according to the steering group.

The report was presented to Grahn-Laasonen at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, one of the six institutional participants in SIMHE, on 15 February, 2017.

The steering group also lays out concrete measures to prevent cultural conflicts in education. It proposes, for example, that joint after-school activities be organised for immigrant and native-born children and that the dialogue between different religious groups be promoted.

“The incidence of hate speech, racism and aggressive online behaviour has increased in our daily lives. Attitudes have hardened. That is not part of a civilised society,” commented Grahn-Laasonen.

The steering group reminds in its report that a total of 32,400 asylum seekers, including more than 3,000 unaccompanied and a total of 8,500 underage asylum seekers, arrived in Finland in 2015. The unprecedented influx of asylum seekers immediately posed challenges within the administrative purview of the Ministry of Education and Culture.

The number of arrivals dropped to roughly 5,700 in 2016 but remains considerably above the levels recorded in previous years.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi