Finland

New proposals for developing and integrating education for immigrants

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A working group at the Ministry of Education and Culture proposes over 40 new measures to respond to the education needs created by the growth in the number of asylum seekers and immigrants. The final report of the working group was submitted to Minister of Education and Culture Sanni Grahn-Laasonen.

The working group is concerned that pupils and students with an immigrant background have poorer learning outcomes than their peers in the original population and suggests further studies on the matter.

Proposals to strengthen the Finnish and Swedish skills among immigrants are at the core of the report. Early support to language learning to improve immigrants’ Finnish and Swedish skills could have positive effects on learning outcomes. The working group proposes that the State support immigrant children in learning Finnish/Swedish already in early childhood education and care.

Integration of language training and vocational studies would promote language learning and expedite educational tracks. The working group proposes that the general language requirement in vocational education and training be eliminated. However, students’ access to language teaching, guidance and other support should be safeguarded during studies. The working group also proposes that the provision of Finnish/Swedish language training, especially at more advanced levels, be increased in higher education.

“Studies show that there is a clear link between language learning and other learning, and it’s difficult to integrate into the Finnish society without knowing the language. We must make language learning a part of all education, especially in vocational education and training and on-the-job learning. Students must be able to learn the language while they learn other skills, otherwise their tracks to education and further to working life will become too long. This requires changes in both attitudes and practices,” said Minister of Education and Culture Sanni Grahn-Laasonen.

The working group also proposes further development of the work to reinforce the role of Finnish higher education institutions in supporting the integration of immigrants. The work aims to promote access to education for immigrants and asylum seekers who have a background in higher education or who are eligible for higher education.

The working group also makes concrete proposals on how to prevent cultural conflicts. Free-of-charge camps and club activities should be organised during summer vacation and other leisure time where immigrant children and young people could meet their peers in the original population. It is also important to support dialogue between religious denominations.

The working group’s report also discusses the progress, current state and implementation of the measures proposed in the working group’s interim report. There has been progress on several fronts: the reform of adult basic education is advancing swiftly, higher education institutions are supporting immigrants in education, and training integrating Finnish/Swedish language studies and vocational studies will be launched in vocational education and training.

  • In 2015 Finland received a total of 32,400 asylum seekers. In 2016 the number of asylum seekers was down to 5,657.

  • The higher education institutions taking part in Supporting Immigrants in Higher Education in Finland (SIMHE) are, as of 2017, Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, University of Helsinki, Karelia University of Applied Sciences, Oulu University of Applied Sciences, and University of Turku.

Inquiries:

  • Kirsi Kangaspunta, Director, chair of the working group, Ministry of Education and Culture, tel. +358 295 3 30136

  • Kaisu Piiroinen, Senior Adviser, secretary of the working group, Ministry of Education and Culture, tel. +358 295 3 30359

  • Leena Nissilä, Counsellor of Education, National Agency for Education, tel. +358 40 348 7705

The final report, published on 15 February 2017, in Finnish

The interim report, published on 4 February 2016, in Finnish