The Trade Union of Education in Finland (OAJ) wants to increase the time children spend at school. The union said today that compulsory education should start at 5 years of age and continue until pupils have finished secondary education at the age of 19.
The OAJ chairman Olli Luukkainen says too many young people in Finland – about 70,000 – have become marginalised from society because they are not at school or work.
According to OAJ, extending the compulsory schooling would cost 300 million euros per year. In contrast, marginalisation carries a price tag of about 1.4 billion euros annually.
Currently, Finnish children are obligated to participate in a one-year pre-school programme starting at 6 and nine years of basic education until they turn 17.
Compulsory education model is out of date
OAJ believes that the current education model needs to be updated and therefore proposes for pre-school start at the age of 5 and last for two years. Luukkainen says that children’s sensitivity to learn is at its highest at 5 years of age.
“The pre-school would pay attention to children’s individual development and learning skills, and in this way even out the differences caused by various family backgrounds,” he said.
At the other end of the spectrum, OAJ suggests that basic education should be available to students until they turn 19.
“Nobody should be quitting basic education before finishing all the compulsory courses,” Luukkainen said.
In addition, young people should have the opportunity to advance their studies quicker than normal and to attend secondary school courses already during basic education, he added.
The report also calls for doubling the number of special education teachers and stipulating the student-teacher ratios.