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Finland  [1]  Context of national VET/HRD policies

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During the last few years the assessment results of education have brought up some problems which have been intervened with extensive development projects. These projects have often regarded the whole educational system. The following two plans are examples of such development projects: (1) project aiming at developing the guidance environment and (2) diverse learners – common school – project. 
(1) An evaluation of educational guidance and counselling was completed in Finland in autumn 2002. The evaluation covered basic education, general and vocational upper secondary education and educational transitions from one level to another. The evaluation conducted was the first of its kind in Finland at the education system level. It revealed considerable shortcomings and has thus led to initiatives to improve the situation. The initial training of study counsellors is being increased and in-service training is being enhanced. The National Board of Education has launched a development project for educational guidance and counselling at all levels and forms of education. In addition there is a project aiming at developing the guidance environment, among others applying web-based solutions. Also in the present Government programme the development of educational guidance and counselling has been emphasised more than before.

(2) The quality of education is high in Finland. According to the OECD PISA assessments the learning outcomes are excellent. Also the differences between pupils, schools and regions are relatively small in Finland. However, according to the national educational outcome evaluations, a part of the pupils and students seem to underachieve, which might be one of the reasons behind for example the considerable differences in the average learning outcomes of boys and girls: the average results of the boys in all subjects are clearly more modest than those of the girls. Therefore The Finnish National Board of Education has initiated a project “Diverse learners – common school” The aim of the project is to find means to reduce the number of underachieving pupils and students. Furthermore, the project will support practices which help all pupils and students to apply their learning skills in an optimal way. Particular attention will be paid to differences between boys and girls in learning. The project encompasses pre-primary, basic and general upper secondary education as well as vocational upper secondary education and training. It was launched in spring 2004 and will continue until the end of 2006.

Extensive educational reforms have also been supported with research.Key research areas that have emerged during recent years include themes related to on-the-job learning. This has largely to do with reforms of vocational education and training implemented in the 1990’s, when periods of on-the-job learning with a scope of 20 credits (800 hours) were incorporated into all vocational qualifications. Studies have examined the implementation of these periods of on-the-job learning from the perspectives of vocational institutions, enterprises and on-the-job instructors. Targets of investigation also include pedagogical solutions involved in learning on the job. 

Another research theme linked to on-the-job learning constitutes vocational skills demonstrations, which are currently being piloted. Through skills demonstrations, students demonstrate how well they have achieved the objectives of vocational studies and the vocational skills required in working life. During the next few years, skills demonstrations will be incorporated into all upper secondary vocational qualifications. The aim of skills demonstrations is to improve and guarantee the quality of vocational education and training. Studies have examined the ways, in which the pilot projects have been implemented in practical terms. 

As from 2003, the National Board of Education has supported the Life as Learning research programme set up by the Academy of Finland. Life as Learning (LEARN - www.aka.fi/learn) is a national research programme (EUR 5.1 million 2002–2006), funded by the Academy of Finland, the National Board of Education, the Ministry of Education, the National Technology Agency (Tekes) and the Finnish Work Environment Fund. The LEARN programme includes 17 research projects. By supporting the programme, the National Board of Education promotes interaction between research organisations and educational administration as well as utilisation of the latest research findings. LEARN is an extensive research programme, which also includes themes relating to vocational education and training.

One of the essential goals of the LEARN programme is to produce new knowledge about what learning is in working life and how new knowledge is created in work environments. Learning is no longer limited to schools or the formal education system. The goal is to find those processes which help empower individuals and work communities through learning. One very important aim for the Finnish education policy is also to identify the barriers which increase the risks of exclusion in working life.

The LEARN programme aims to produce new evidence in support of education policy measures and also of the joint objectives of education and labour policies. LEARN programme calls researchers to work in cross-boundary modes with societal partners, to create new concepts and tools together, and to share learning research with different partners in society.

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Source: Cedefop - National Research Report Finland (details see Bibliography)
Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO