According to information made public, government negotiators are considering a drastic 50 percent cut in funding for adult education based on a proposal by the Ministry of Finance. Such a decision would have severe consequences for employment, continuous learning, public well-being, and regional equality. A joint statement from 14 organizations warns that numerous educational institutions would be forced to shut down as a result of these budget cuts.
A diverse group representing employees, educational institutions, and education providers highlights the multifaceted impacts of these proposed cuts.
Threat to Employment and Skills Development
A reduction in funding for adult education would hinder the achievement of the incoming government's employment goals. Adult education institutions, such as folk high schools, community colleges, study centers, and summer universities, offer vocational training and teach essential skills needed in everyday life and the workplace, such as IT and foreign languages. These institutions contribute to enhancing employability and promoting workforce capabilities.
When discussing the employment implications, the impact on jobs within adult education cannot be overlooked. For instance, a €70 million cut would potentially lead to the closure of over 130 smaller educational institutions.
Obstacle to Education Advancement
If implemented, the proposed budget cuts would also impede efforts to raise the educational attainment of the population, as many summer universities would likely be forced to cease operations. This would significantly reduce the regional accessibility of higher education.
Adult education plays a crucial role as an accessible pathway toward university degrees and professional qualifications. Summer universities, for example, provide approximately 65,000 study credits' worth of higher education each year, contributing to a total of around 100,000 study credits earned annually within adult education institutions.
Impact on Educational Infrastructure Would Hit Small Communities Hardest
The closure of educational institutions would particularly impact small municipalities, which already have fewer recreational and educational opportunities compared to larger cities. This would further contribute to marginalization and intensify regional disparities throughout Finland. Consequently, the realization of citizens' rights to education, as guaranteed by the Finnish Constitution, would be compromised.
Preserving a network of agile educational institutions across Finland is crucial. For example, during the aftermath of Russia's attack, Ukrainian refugees were able to quickly and flexibly access integration-oriented education through adult education institutions.
Preserve the Conditions for Lifelong Learning, Not Destroy Them
If implemented, these proposed budget cuts would severely hinder the entire population's opportunities for lifelong, accessible learning. Studies have proven that adult education helps maintain functional abilities, mental well-being, and prevents marginalization and depression. It has been estimated that every euro invested in adult education generates a societal return of over five euros. This return is derived from reduced social and healthcare costs, alongside increased employability and motivation for self-development.
The forthcoming government must safeguard the operational conditions of the entire adult education network rather than dismantle it.
As negotiations continue, it is essential to prioritize education as a fundamental pillar of societal progress and ensure equal access to learning opportunities for all. The value of lifelong learning and its positive impact on individuals and society as a whole should guide decision-making to build a prosperous and inclusive future for Finland.