Education union welcomes new compulsory education law

Opposition politicians were against the move, preferring to see money spent on early childhood education - the government argues it is improving the situation there as well.

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File picture of high school students / Credit: iStock

The Finnish Education Union OAJ has welcomed a package of new laws which extend compulsory education.

Members of Parliament passed a package of new laws at a second reading in parliament on Tuesday, which means that students must stay in full time education until age 18. MPs also voted to make secondary education truly free, with students not having to pay for their own textbooks or mandatory equipment in high school class at vocational schools right through to age 20.

The OAJ says it is “pleased” with the extension of compulsory schooling, noting that it also creates new jobs, but is calling for more investment at all levels of the education system.

“Expanding compulsory education must strengthen and stabilize funding for education. It must also put pressure on education policymakers to create a roadmap for raising the level of funding for primary and secondary schools” says Olli Luukkainen, OAJ’s Chairman.

For several decades the number of young people in Finland who come to the end of compulsory classes but don’t get any sort of secondary education diploma has hovered between 10% and 15%. And only around 40% of those people without a diploma get jobs.

Opposition parties, in particular the National Coalition Party, had argued against extending compulsory education noting that it wasn’t the norm in Europe for students to remain in school until age 18. They would have preferred to see more of an emphasis on early childhood education, with compulsory schooling starting at a younger age.

The government says it is making progress, and investing money, in early childhood education as well.

A pilot programme to introduce a two-year pre-school period is being rolled out to see how it affects younger children and their learning outcomes; and the government has also proposed a change to the regulations about the ratio of staff-to-children at kindergartens.

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