Enhancing the attractiveness of vocational education
A knowledge base on Finnish and European experience

Finnish reform trends


Dr. Johanna Lasonen, University of Jyväskylä

This introductory paper (11 pages) is available for downloading:
 full text

Some highlights of this text are presented for an initial glance below:

Today the generally accepted ideological starting point is that the whole age cohort should be educated. More than 90 per cent of comprehensive school leavers continue their studies in general upper secondary school or vocational education establishments. Nearly half the age cohort takes the Matriculation Examination and 45 per cent a vocational qualification. Over a period extending from the wars to the mid-1990s, Finland saw a bigger growth in the numbers of those completing a secondary education qualification than any other OECD country. The number of students in higher education has grown to represent half the age cohort. The establishment of the AMK institutions has meant that the numbers of tertiary education students continue to increase.
An important educational innovation, that has been successfully carried through in Finland, is a system including several routes of progress  for a student to reach tertiary education. However, in reality most students choose to follow the traditional routes while only a fraction of them makes open-minded use of the new broad range of options. The general reform of educational legislation carried out in 1998 places particular emphasis on the individualís right to freely apply for education. Initial vocational education and training guarantees eligibility for higher education or/and access to working life. An AMK graduate can continue their studies at a university. However, in higher education students are accredited for earlier studies less flexibly than in upper secondary education. 
Finland switched, at the turn of the 1980s, from centralised administration over to administration devolved to the local level meaning, among other things, that the educational establishments now designed their curricula on their own. When the central administration was no longer able to control the quality of education, it was partly in reaction that the educational authorities began to stress the assessment of educational quality. The aim is the dynamic and interactive development of evaluation activities and educational provision where all customer and stakeholder groups are taken into consideration.
Increasing cooperation between education and working life together with the introduction of work-based learning and self-directed studying and learning have been central themes in efforts to improve the quality of curricula in Finland in the second half of the 1990s. The workplace learning period incorporated into all study programmes does not stem from economic motives alone. Work-based learning has become important primarily because of technological development, questions involved in effective learning, and the need to bring work and school closer. Today's approaches to learning emphasise contextual and experiential learning. The workplace learning periods included in initial vocational education programmes are implemented under the supervision of a vocational education establishment and on the basis of school curricula. The student is motivated to learn and persuaded to commit themselves to learning by means of a personal study programme (PSP).

First set up: 12/05/2001
Latest update: 12/05/2001
 Contact: Sabine Manning
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