Tuesday 10/26/21

Finland to extend free compulsory education until the age of 18

Education and daily meals will be free of charge, along with textbooks and other materials needed for teaching.

Young people finishing their comprehensive school education in spring 2021, mainly those born in 2005, would be the first to be affected by the reform.

A Finnish school. Photo: Government/Vnk.
A Finnish school. Photo: Government/Vnk.

The Finnish government wants young people to study at least until they come of age. And also that their education is free of charge.

For that reason, on Thursday 15 October the government submitted a proposal to Parliament that would extend compulsory education until the age of 18. At the same time, upper secondary education would be made free of charge for students in extended compulsory education. The reform would also improve student guidance and develop transition phase education.

The goal is for the reform to enter into force on 1 August 2021, the Ministry of Education and Culture said in a press release. Young people finishing their comprehensive school education in spring 2021, mainly those born in 2005, would be the first to be affected by the reform.

Extending compulsory education is one of the objectives laid down in the Government Programme. The reform seeks to raise Finland’s level of education and competence, reduce learning gaps and increase equality and non-discrimination in education. The extension of compulsory education will also increase the employment rate, the government says.

"Around 16% of young people in this age group still fail to complete an upper secondary qualification. It is no longer possible to get by in life and in working life with basic education alone. Now is the time to update compulsory education to meet the requirements of the 2020s. With the extension of compulsory education, every young person will be guaranteed an upper secondary qualification," says Minister of Education Li Andersson.

Free of charge

For the government, providing education free of charge is an important part of the reform.

According to the legislative proposal, compulsory education would end when a young person reaches the age of 18 or has completed an upper secondary qualification (the upper secondary school syllabus and matriculation examination or a vocational upper secondary qualification).

In future, education and daily meals (as at present) would be free of charge, along with textbooks and other materials needed for teaching, tools, work clothes and materials, and the five tests required to complete the matriculation examination, including retakes of failed tests.

Travel to school for journeys of 7 kilometres or more would also be free of charge at the upper secondary level.

Special equipment needed for studies, such as musical instruments and sports equipment, would remain the responsibility of the student.

Education would continue to be free of charge until the end of the calendar year in which the student reaches the age of 20. The period of free education could also be extended for justified reasons, for example due to illness or to allow the student to complete transition phase education.

Improving student guidance

Providers of comprehensive school education will have a duty to intensify student guidance in years 8 and 9 of compulsory school with a focus on preparing students for the next phase of studies.

Before the end of the final year of comprehensive school education, students need to apply for upper secondary education, transition phase education or another kind of education within the scope of compulsory education. The obligation to apply will continue until the student has found a place to study.

If a student who is completing comprehensive school education fails to secure a new place of study, the comprehensive school provider is obliged to notify the local authorities in the student's municipality of residence, who then take the young person under their wing. The municipality must examine the overall situation of the young person and their need for support together with the student and their guardian or other legal representative.

The transition phase

The reform will include a renewed education package for the transition phase, to be introduced in 2022.

Preparatory education for programmes leading to an upper secondary qualification (TUVA education) will be combined with additional basic education, preparatory education for general upper secondary education, and preparatory education and training for vocational education and training.

The aim of TUVA education is to provide the knowledge, skills and competences needed to apply for education leading to an upper secondary qualification and to complete the qualification. It is intended for students in compulsory education and other people (such as immigrants and adult students) who require further preparation for the next phase of their studies.