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Monday’s papers: Intolerant Finland, school trip uproar and flag centennial

Today’s papers talk about Finland’s lacking attraction for returning students, school trips ruining family finances and explain why the 100-year-old Finnish flag is not red and yellow.

suomen lippu liehuu mäntyjen edessä
Image: Anne Saarinen / AOP

Daily Kauppalehti reports that only a minority of Finnish students abroad plan to return to Finland. Citing a survey by the Finnish National Agency for Education, Kauppalehti writes that about a quarter of the Finns studying abroad intend to come back to their home country after graduation.

Approximately 1,400 students responded to the agency’s survey, while a total of about 8,000 students currently receive funding from Kela, the Social Insurance Institution, for studies outside Finland. The number has doubled within the past 10 years.

After graduation, the place of residence is chosen based on the individual's employment and career outlook, while the country’s general atmosphere is also considered important, Kauppalehti wrote, quoting the agency's Irma Garam. She laments that only 22 percent of Finns studying abroad regard Finland as attractive, and 8 percent deem Finland to be international.

Mostly students are concerned about the lack of career opportunities and poor employment prospects in Finland. In addition, many consider the country to be bigoted, narrow-minded and intolerant.

According to Kauppalehti, the respondents view their countrymen and women as socially inept, cold, unfriendly and stiff. One respondent called Finland xenophobic, bitter, indecisive and regressive, while another said the country was wasting its potential by closing itself from the world and not having the guts to look to the future, Kauppalehti said.

Expensive school trips

Tampere-based daily Aamulehti asks whether parents can be required to pay expenses for school trips.

Over the weekend, the Ombudsman for Children Tuomas Kurttila condemned such trips as unconstitutional because they treat children inequitably based on their parents’ income. According to Kurttila, Finland’s Constitution guarantees free basic education to everyone.

One commenter to Aamulehti’s article said that the extracurricular activities by five schoolchildren had cost the family more than 600 euros during the semester. “When times are tough financially, coming up with this money creates stress. It also means that the money cannot be spent on something else, like food,” the parent said.

Another parent complained that sending a child on a 12-hour trip from Tampere to Helsinki costs the family 50-70 euros as the school only provides the children with a sandwich and a small box of juice.

On the other hand, some commenters said that money for school trips, which “make all kids content and happy,” has been collected since at least the 1970s. “It also is not fair to ban these trips that create memories for a lifetime because some children cannot participate.”

Another reader was along the same lines, saying “School trips should not be forbidden just because there are poor people.”

History of Finnish flag

Meanwhile, daily Helsingin Sanomat highlights the history of the Finnish flag, which turns 100 years today. According to the paper, it was not self-evident that white and blue were to be chosen as the colours of the national flag - because a minority of the MPs in 1918, especially Swedish speakers, preferred red and yellow.

Blue and white were considered Russian colours as they were used by the Russian navy, said Tuomas Tepora from the University of Helsinki. The Fennoman movement had chosen these colours in the mid 19th century to prove loyalty to the Russian czar who supported Finland's autonomous aspirations. Gradually a story about Finland’s white snow and blue sky was born and became popular among the country folk, Sepora said.

In addition, the colour red had become associated with the rebels of the Finnish Civil War, which had just ended in May 1918, Helsingin Sanomat writes.

The MPs also were not united on the pattern on the flag. The Fennomans wanted Finland to distinguish itself from Scandinavia and therefore favoured a striped flag, instead of a cross. However, the MPs compromised and selected a design that combined both Western and Eastern elements: the cross from the West and the colours from the East.

In order to celebrate the centenary of the flag, Finland’s interior ministry recommends that it is flown from 8 am to 9 pm today.

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