Social Democrats Back Fully-Free High School Education

SDP push comes as Citizens' Initiative gathers more than 50,000 votes on the same issue.

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File picture of international students / Credit: iStock

The Social Democrats say that a proposal for fully-free secondary education – including high school and vocational school – should be added to parliament’s spring agenda.

Chair of the SDP’s Parliamentary Group Antti Lindtman says that half of high school or vocational school drop-outs quit their education due to lack of money. Now he’s calling on Minister of Education Sanni Grahn-Lassonen (NCP) to make sure it’s a subject which parliament tackles already this spring.

Citizens’ Initiative

Parliament would in any case have to deal with the issue at some point, since a Citizen’s Initiative collected 50,000 signatures earlier this month, demanding that high school and vocational education become truly cost-free. Any Citizens’ Initiative that gets more than 50,000 votes has to be addressed by MPs.

The initiative was lead by Save The Children Finland, who estimate the cost of secondary education or vocational qualifications can rise above €2600 when the price of text books or computers is taken into account.

Presently, the teaching is free so you don’t have to pay a tuition fee to attend a vocational school. But students have to pay for books and materials – the same as universities. However, in universities there are often better facilities like libraries and computers and the chance for students to use those on campus.

In vocational training schools, students mainly have to buy their own books and computers, and with exams moving to digital formats, Save The Children says it’s becoming harder for students who come from lower income families to participate.

“We are asking basically for really free education for high school and vocational training. We’re not campaigning for any one solution, the Citizens’ Initiative says Parliament has to figure it out, and then start acting towards actually free education” Save The Children’s Nelli Sinisaari previously told News Now Finland.

SDP Concerns

In a Facebook post, SDP’s Antti Lindtman writes that Finland’s success story has been based on the idea that anyone can become anything in this country – thanks in large part to the education system.

“The high price of teaching materials in secondary education prevents thousands of young people from completing secondary education” writes Lindtman.

“In Finland there are 100,000 people under 30 years of age without a secondary qualification. Only four out of ten are in employment. These facts show that Finland cannot afford not to make a major reform in the future” for truly free education, he writes.

Lindtman says it’s a “great thing” that the Citizens’ Initiative got more than 50,000 signatures and will now be referred to parliament. He says he hopes it will inspire the government to understand the facts about the issue.