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Report: State subsidy should extend to all integration language teaching

An Education Ministry working group has listed more than 40 measures to improve how language teaching is funded and organised for non-Finnish-speaking immigrants and asylum-seekers, especially children. The report also calls for language requirements in polytechnics to be waived.

Maahanmuuttaja tekemässä peruskoulutehtäviä.
Language training is key to integration. Image: Laura Tolonen / Yle

A working group for the Ministry of Education finds in a recent report that language teaching at all levels of education as part of the process of integrating immigrants into Finland is in serious need of improvement.

The group listed 43 focused measures that aim to facilitate the social integration of people who have moved or whose families have moved to Finland from abroad. A majority of the measures concerned Finnish and Swedish language teaching.

One of the chief proposals is that integration-related teaching should be made free of charge in folk high schools and other adult education institutions. That means that the government would fully subsidise such teaching, compared with the current subsidy of 57–65 percent.

Not all immigrants who enter Finland for any variety of reasons have equal access to integrative teaching or services by any means, the report indicates. The working group considers the teaching and training measures too internal to institutions, with too little attention paid to forming ties to society at large.

The working group emphasises the obvious importance of Finnish and Swedish language competency in meaningful societal participation.

The costs are estimated to be some 13 million euros annually. The report was handed in to Minister of Education and Culture Sanni Grahn-Laasonen on Wednesday morning. The report is in Finnish and can be read here.

Early childhood education funding boost proposed

The report also proposes that state subsidy reserved for Finnish and/or Swedish language and other teaching be extended to also fund language studies in early childhood education.

The working group's goal is to involve all non-Finnish- and/or non-Swedish-speaking children in at least part-time early childhood education, such as is provided in daycare centres.

Sufficient language teaching should also be guaranteed for students with non-Finnish backgrounds in primary and secondary schools and high schools.

At the end of primary school (grades 1-9, age 7-15) teenagers who have moved to Finland from abroad should have the opportunity to complete their basic education in a local school or in adult basic education, the report says.

The issue is severe, the working group says, because not all teenagers receive sufficient language education to even be able to graduate primary school.

Requirements need slackening

Another significant measure proposed by the working group is that the language requirements for anyone applying to enter vocational education should be abandoned. In future the goal may be to guarantee that a student attain B1.1-level Finnish or Swedish skills by the time they graduate from vocational school.

Educational language stipulations and language learning support during studies should be developed with this goal in mind, the report holds.

For university-level institutions the group proposes organising Finnish or Swedish language education outside of semesters as well, both during the day and in the evenings, and also for exchange students.

Strengthening inclusion and a sense of community would also be brought about by organising summertime camping trips and other collective gatherings to bring together both foreign-born and Finnish-born underage learners.

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