As the centenary of Finland’s independence is celebrated, teacher unionists reiterate that education is a crucial part of the glue holding the country together and that it gave, and still will give it, a bright, prosperous and sustainable future.
On 6 December, there will be a strong reminder that “the story of the 100-year old Finland is extraordinary and rests on the values cherished by the Finns: democracy, education, equality and freedom of speech,” explains the official media release for the Suomi/Finland 100 celebrations.
Most of the official celebrations will take place on that day in the capital city, Helsinki, but there will be many other unique moments all over Finland. The Finnish flag will fly for two consecutive days, and the whole country will be illuminated with blue and white lights, the colours of Finland.
“Hundred years ago, Finland was a poor country, and over these years Finland has become a success story, very much due to its education system,” underlined Opetusalan Ammattijärjestö (OAJ) President Olli Luukkainen.
Finland, he added, went for ‘no one left behind’ long before this idea was written into the Education 2030 Agenda.
Acknowledging that “we have educated the whole nation and offered equal opportunities for all”, he welcomed the fact that, “in Finland, it is possible also for a poor student from poor family background to make it the doctor degree”.
The other success story is the co-operation between unions, the government and employers, Luukkainen highlighted. During really difficult years, these three partners learnt to sit together around the same table to conclude agreements. The OAJ, for instance, has not had a strike since 1984, and salary agreements are dealt with via social dialogue and negotiations, Luukkainen went on to stress.
The OAJ and all its members will be celebrating Finland’s 100 anniversary with dignity, he said, concluding by pointing out that “the costs we paid from our independence were heavy. We are remembering our heroes at the cemetery, and there will be thousands and thousands of candles on 6 December in the evening”.