Finland: government increases support for education of immigrant students and teachers

The Opetusalan Ammattijärjestö teachers’ union have called for increased teacher training in order to deliver quality education to immigrant students following a government announcement to boost funding for immigrant students’ education and integration.

On 11 August, the Finnish Minister of Education, Sanni Grahn-Laasonen, announced a €5.5 million funding package for the development of immigrant students’ educational paths and other measures promoting their integration. These funds will be used, among other things, to improve learning outcomes and to organise training to provide immigrants with an official qualification to work as subject teachers and kindergarten teachers.

OAJ: Education and integration needed urgently

“Education is the best integration policy, and immigrants of all ages need to gain access to education services as soon as possible after their arrival in Finland to ensure that integration begins immediately,” said the Opetusalan Ammattijärjestö (OAJ) President, Olli Luukkainen.

In Finland, teachers´ multicultural competences also need reinforcement, he noted, adding that “I am worried that we do not have enough adequately trained teachers to educate immigrants”.

New tools are needed to reinforce teachers’ qualifications in multicultural education, as well as on how to teach writing and reading skills to immigrants, Luukkainen added.

Background

Several Finnish higher education institutions are to carry out projects to promote and accelerate immigrants’ educational paths. For example, under the lead of the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, education for immigrants will be further improved, while a University of Jyväskylä project is set to create new pathways to university education for immigrants. The Universities of Helsinki, Tampere, Turku, Oulu and Eastern Finland will also organise training providing qualifications for teachers with immigrant backgrounds as well as continuing education for teachers working with immigrants.

Funding was also granted to projects that seek to develop early childhood education and care and other education organised by municipalities to improve the learning outcomes of pupils with immigrant backgrounds. Furthermore, club activities within early childhood education and care, instruction in Finnish/Swedish as a second language, liberal adult education for immigrants, and language instruction for stay-at-home immigrant parents will be subsidised.

Altogether, 27 projects to be carried out by local authorities, higher education institutions, educational institutions and organisations, will receive state funding. They will contribute to the implementation of the action plan on integration adopted by the Government on 3 May 2016, aiming to make educational paths more flexible and individualised.

Vocational education and training for immigrants was previously funded by a €20 million package, designed to facilitate asylum seekers and people with immigrant backgrounds to integrated into the labour market swiftly and to strengthen their education.

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