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Finland earmarks €68m for educational inequality exposed during pandemic

A lack of access to technology and contact teaching has exacerbated educational inequality.

Education Minister Jussi Saramo. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Finland has released 67.8 million euros in a one-off education equality fund for municipalities to help schools and pupils struggling during the coronavirus crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted existing inequalities between children in Finland. Some students learning at home have received an abundance of family support while others have mainly had to manage on their own with some support from school.

"The same type of disparity is apparent in broader learning outcomes. The coronavirus crisis is a wakeup call to stop the trend of growing educational inequality," Education Minister Jussi Saramo (Left) said.

Uneven playing field

On Wednesday the government deployed 68 million euros in education equality funding to help prevent learning gaps from forming between rich and poor areas. The Education Minister said he would like to see this type of funding become an established practice.

"Equal educational opportunities can’t always be taken for granted," he said.

Municipalities are able to draw on the fund for specific targets.

"This special funding can support areas with high unemployment, or areas where residents have low educational levels as well as places with a high proportion of foreign language speakers. All of these factors put children at risk of poorer learning outcomes," he explained.

International studies indicate that differences between schools in Finland are among the smallest in the world. However, the gap between the best and lowest performing schools in the country is growing.

"Setting up a permanent form of equality funding would be an important step in further strengthening the Finnish education system’s ability to offer every child and young person the opportunity to learn to their full potential," Saramo explained.

He also noted that learning deficits had occurred during distance learning periods. He said upcoming budget talks were the time to address education setbacks. He noted that if ignored, these disparities could lead to employment problems later on.

"That’s why it’s crucial during budget talks to agree on funding to help bridge gaps which have formed in the knowledge, skills and wellbeing among children and young people," he said.

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