By a vote of 104 to 60, members of Finnish Parliament gave Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s government a vote of confidence on Wednesday. The vote came a day after the opposition parties held an interpellation concerning government’s plan to cut the education budget by hundreds of millions of euros.
Yesterday’s debate, led by the Social Democrats, Greens, Left Alliance and the Swedish People’s parties, was about the hundreds of millions of euros in education cuts that the government is planning to implement.
Government is planning to cut the secondary education budget by 190 million euros and also cut science and cultural studies by nearly 600 million euros through the year 2019. There are many other measures, cuts and changes to the education budget. The Trade Union of Education in Finland says that cumulatively, the education cuts could amount to 3 billion euros by the end of the parliamentary term.
The Greens MP Jani Toivola told lawmakers during Tuesday’s interpellation that while cuts are necessary in some sectors, education was “irreplaceable.”
“Many things need reform,” Toivola said on Tuesday. “But higher education and research play an irreplaceable role as we’re building a more sustainable system and developing our export base, creating new ideas, businesses and employment.”
The Left Alliance’s MP Li Andersson said she agreed with the American economist Joseph Stieglitz, who was in Finland last week. He said that the Finnish government’s budget cuts to education are theft from children.
“When the government reduces the national level of education, impairs the quality of education and increases knowledge-based inequalities, it is building a future where human capital is a privilege for a small elite group,” Andersson said on Tuesday.
Christian Democrats abstained from Wednesday’s vote because they did not take part in the interpellation, and 30 other MPs were absent.
"An inspiring task"
Minister of Education and Culture Sanni Grahn-Laasonen said Tuesday that the cuts in education were necessary now because past governments did not make required reforms earlier.
Grahn-Laasonen noted six projects that are part of the budget package which include reforms like the digitisation of classrooms, an hour of daily exercise for students, more diverse language programmes and more collaboration between industry and universities.
"It's an inspiring task to be able to make reforms in education," she said on Tuesday.