High school and vocational school studies will now become free of charge as compulsory education expands in August to 18 years of age. HS asked experts and the student union how free tuition affects studies.
SOON In the beginning of the school year, there will be a historic turning point in Finnish education, as compulsory education will expand to 18 years of age. In that case, secondary education will become not only compulsory but also free of charge for young people completing primary school.
The reform will enter into force at the beginning of August. For the first time this year, it applies to students completing their primary school studies, ie mainly those born in 2005. In the future, free of charge will apply to every graduating age group.
Free of charge continues until the student completes secondary education or until the end of the year in which he or she reaches the age of 20.
HS asked experts and the student union how free tuition affects studies.
What is included in the free fee?
Teaching and in addition to meals, the necessary textbooks and other materials, as well as tools, clothing and materials, are now free of charge.
The training provider decides how it acquires and provides materials for students to use. Learning materials can be provided in traditional books or digitally.
Teaching Adviser Kati Lounema recalls that the law does not oblige students to acquire, for example, a personal computer.
“The organizers of the education can think about whether each student has their own equipment or whether, for example, the sharing of equipment is utilized,” says Lounema, who works as the head of the National Competence Unit of the National Board of Education.
In practice the reform means that secondary schools will acquire a total of tens of thousands of new computers for next school year.
For example, in Helsinki’s high schools, in addition to textbooks, a computer is acquired for all students. In vocational education, free of charge also includes personal tools and equipment.
“Over time, there will probably be case law where the limit of free of charge is drawn. It is not yet possible to say that, ”says a specialist in high school education Kyösti Värri The Association of Finnish Municipalities.
The reform also changes the length of the free school trip from ten to seven kilometers.
Read more: You can get a driving license as part of your studies – Free secondary education saves students up to a thousand euros
How does the situation work in practice when the courses have students who started in a different year?
Next in the academic year, the same course may have students who pay for their study materials themselves and students who receive the materials free of charge.
President of the High School Students’ Union Emilia Uljas notes that practical problems may arise. They can be dispelled from him, as long as the educational institutions clearly inform their self-paying students what is needed in the courses.
According to Courage, challenges may also come from some using their own computer and some from a computer they received from school.
“That’s why it’s important to invest in computers for those in compulsory education, because they’re a really big part of high school education, for example in science.”
What does secondary education cost for those who make the purchases themselves?
Board of Education According to a study conducted in 2019, vocational education has cost students an average of about 400 euros. High school education has been clearly more expensive, about 2,500 euros per student.
“In vocational education, costs vary according to the needs of the sectors, so the range of costs is larger than high school,” Lounema points out.
Is the situation unfair to those who have started their secondary education earlier?
This is a consequence that cannot be avoided in the transition phase, when the reform guarantees second-degree free of charge from a certain age group, says the Värri Association.
“When you want to change the current state, inevitably there will be a limit at some point that for some things will happen and for others it will not,” says Councilor Lounema.
How is the procurement of learning materials and tools progressing?
Learning materials in the reform, the acquisition is transferred from the student to the education provider, most often to the municipality.
The procurement schedule has been tight, as the new law was confirmed at the end of last year, says the Finnish Association of Local and Regional Authorities Värri. According to him, it is still unclear whether, for example, all computers will reach educational institutions before the beginning of the school year.
“It is likely that not all orders will reach the beginning of the school year. Procurement has been a big operation. ”
According to Värri, the municipalities had to make their future budget assessment in the autumn without a valid law. However, they knew how to accept the reform.
“From the point of view of the normal budget schedule, this should never work, but the legislation should be drafted in time for it to be taken into account in the municipal autumn budgets.”
High school students the union of Uljas is on the same lines: the reform was carried out on a fast schedule.
“Municipalities may not have had the opportunity to make informed decisions about sourcing materials. For example, not all high schools have had time to involve students in decisions, ”he says.
Education Counselor Lounema points out that the coronavirus pandemic has brought with it delivery problems that have affected, for example, the availability of computers.
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Can teachers influence the acquisition of materials and tools as much as before?
For example The Education Trade Union (OAJ) has emphasized that teachers still need to be able to influence the quality of textbooks.
The Color Association of Municipalities does not see a problem.
“Until now, educational institutions have always come up with some learning materials, and there is nothing miraculous about it,” he notes.
“This is a strange debate. In the past, it has not been possible to choose any kind of materials in educational institutions when the student has paid for them himself. ”
According to Emilia Uljaa, the high school students’ association, the problem is possible due to the acquisition schedule.
“It is a pity for teachers if they are not able to teach with the best material possible.”
How Much does a Free Second Degree Cost?
Reform no one knows the exact total yet, stated then Minister of Education Jussi Saramo (left) to HS in June.
The Ministry of Education and Culture has estimated that extending compulsory education by 2024 will cost 129 million euros a year. According to the calculations of the Association of Finnish Municipalities, the costs would be clearly higher.
“This is a reform, and like all other reforms, not everything can be known in advance,” says Kati Lounema.
Does secondary free education also extend to ten-year-olds?
New the law does not apply to those who have studied in the basic education of basic education in the last school year, ie in the so-called tenth grade or, for example, in preparatory education for upper secondary education or vocational education.
Municipalities can still decide to extend secondary education free of charge to these young people as well.
Värri of the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities reminds that in practice the question only concerns the transition phase of the expansion of compulsory education. According to him, some municipalities have extended second-rate free, although it is not required by law.
What are the best aspects of free?
“At our house is finally equal secondary education, ”says Uljas of the High School Association.
According to him, with the reform, high school students no longer have to worry that education will get stuck in money.
The main idea of the whole reform is to guarantee better employment opportunities for all young people, says Kati Lounema.
According to Värri of the Association of Finnish Municipalities, free of charge is “certainly a good thing” if tuition fees have been some kind of obstacle for students.
“But it seems that tuition fees have not been a barrier to applying for education for a large number of people,” Värri says.
Vibrant according to free of charge, it is essential that the reform is reimbursed to the organizers of education, ie mostly municipalities. Otherwise, they will have to pinch the consequences of gratuity elsewhere.
“It can be a detrimental factor in education,” he says.
Uljas of the High School Students’ Association states that the association has been running free for more than 30 years. However, the whole reform is a “double-barreled thing” for him.
“Free is a great thing, but we don’t see that compulsion is the best motivator if you want to raise your level of education. In other words, we have not been in favor of extending compulsory education. ”
According to Värri, free of charge may affect young people’s search behavior when they have a financial incentive to apply to study further.
“If a young person applies to the nearest educational institution, they may have to pay for their school trip themselves. But even if he applies at least seven miles away, school trips become free. The coming years will show the effects of this. ”
Read more: Expanding compulsory education challenges municipalities: Free education becomes expensive for big cities, small ones fear student loss