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Friday’s papers: Minister faces no-confidence vote, textbook shortage, and fast-tracking integration through Swedish

FM Timo Soini faces a no-confidence vote over abortion views, pupils in Helsinki suffer from a textbook shortage, and maximising integration through Swedish.

Muistivihko, jonka päällä muutama kymppi rahaa.
Image: Matti Myller / Yle

Foreign Minister Timo Soini will face a confidence vote in Parliament on Friday afternoon, reports national daily Helsingin Sanomat.

The move follows a string of anti-abortion statements Soini has made on his blog and his participation in an anti-abortion procession while on an official visit to Canada earlier this year.

The motion has been brought by four opposition parties: the Social Democrats, the Left Alliance, the Greens, and the Swedish People’s Party.

”Foreign Minister Soini’s actions abroad contradict women’s rights and Finland’s foreign policy,” said MP Maarit Feldt-Ranta of the Social Democrats.

A no-confidence vote would indicate that Soini lacks the majority backing by lawmakers necessary for him to continue serving as a member of PM Juha Sipilä’s government.

Soini is a member of the breakaway Finns Party faction, Blue Reform. The group split from the Finns Party when Jussi Halla-aho dethroned Soini during a national convention in June. PM Sipilä said there were too many differences to work with the Finns Party under Halla-aho's stewardship, but reconstituted his government with the MPs who left the Finns Party to form the Blue Reform.

Quality education vs textbook shortage

Parents in Helsinki are increasingly forced to pay for their children’s primary school textbooks, finds a fresh survey by national daily Helsingin Sanomat.

One parent told the paper that 27 students share 5 history books, which pupils can take home overnight ahead of tests. Meanwhile, some teaches have resorted to sharing foreign language vocabulary lists over the WhatsApp messaging service, and some instructors have opted out of using textbooks altogether.

In addition to reporting a shortage of textbooks, surveyed parents also criticised many books in circulation as outdated.

Liisa Pohjolainen, an official from Helsinki City’s Education Division, echoes parents’ concerns, noting that she has received parental complaints from half a dozen schools this fall.

The book shortage comes down to savings, not digitisation, according to the paper.

The Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities calculates that preschool and primary education funds have been cut across the country by some 520 million euros per year since 2012.

Leveraging Swedish

Want to fast-track integration into Finland? Learn Swedish, writes national daily Hufvudstadsbladet, quoting American Allyana Thomas who won a pitching event at the Integration 2018 event in Helsinki hosted by the City of Helsinki and various government agencies.

Thomas said she spent six yeas unsuccessfully trying to learn Finnish but mastered enough Swedish in five months to pass the National Certificate of Language Proficiency (YKI) test, which is a prerequisite for Finnish citizenship.

Thomas said Finland’s local Swedish-speaking minority should do more to help migrants here realise they can opt to learn Swedish, which is an Indo-European language belonging to the same family as English, German and Dutch, unlike Finnish.

Learning Swedish helps migrants not only integrate into Finland, but into the Nordic region and European Union, she explained.

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