A third of Finnish high school students require additional support for their studies, according to the Lukiolaisbarometri report released last autumn. The need for support is more pronounced among students whose mother tongue is other than Finnish or Swedish, and those whose parents have lower levels of education. Nearly half of high school students with learning difficulties stated that they needed additional support.
In a recent official view of the Ministry of Education and Culture, a comprehensive overhaul of learning support was called for from early childhood education to higher education. The Union of Finnish Upper Secondary School Students supports the implementation of the reform in the next parliamentary term.
"When the goal is to increase the number of highly educated young people, it is essential to keep everyone on board. If the basic skills acquired in high school are inadequate, there will also be no readiness to succeed in higher education," says Ella Siltanen, President of the Union of Finnish Upper Secondary School Students.
The reform should pay particular attention to transitional stages, such as the transition from basic education to upper secondary education. Many young people report receiving adequate support in basic education, but when they move to upper secondary school, learning support is inadequate or completely interrupted.
A comprehensive support system does not emerge by itself; it requires sufficient competent staff. High school students were granted the right to special education in the autumn of 2021. In some high schools, it has been a challenge to find qualified professionals for the positions.
"It is important that special education teachers have time to support high school students in everyday life, but this is not currently being implemented. Therefore, we need more special education teachers in high schools and special education teacher ratios based on need. Subject teachers should also be instructed and trained on how to implement learning support," demands Siltanen.
The need for learning support is crucial to ensure that all students, regardless of their background, have equal opportunities to succeed in their studies. It is essential to invest in competent and sufficient staff, particularly at transitional stages, to provide necessary support to students. The implementation of a comprehensive learning support system is a step towards ensuring that all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
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