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More high school grads forced to take gap years

The number of Finnish high school graduates left without a spot for further studies has been growing for a decade.

Ylioppilaslakki
Students who pass the matriculation exams earn the right to wear the white cap – but necessarily a place to study. Image: Linda Tammela / Yle

Less than a third of graduates from Finnish upper secondary schools in spring 2018 were immediately accepted into university-level study programmes.

Although 82 percent of fresh graduates applied for tertiary education, just 10 percent continued immediately at universities of applied sciences and 18 percent at other universities.

Gender split

The phenomenon shows a gender split, as the number of female high school graduates left without places to study has risen particularly sharply in recent years.

Just 27 percent of women who completed the matriculation exam in the spring of 2018 went straight on to further studies, compared to 35 percent of their male classmates, Statistics Finland said on Thursday.

A decade ago, the figure was basically the same for men and women, with about 46 percent of each carrying on right away to tertiary education.

Many new matriculants are forced to take at least one gap year before scoring entry into an institution of higher learning. For instance, of those who passed the final exams in 2015, some 56 percent landed study berths within three years.

Just 1% quit after basic education

Last year 53 percent of pupils who finished the obligatory comprehensive schooling went on to academic high schools while 41 percent opted for vocational schools. Just one percent did not go on to any further studies. That number has dropped dramatically, as some 10 percent of the adult population has only a basic education.

Since the 1970s, education has been compulsory in Finland through nine years of comprehensive schooling, usually completed at 15 or 16. The current government programme calls for that to be extended through upper secondary school, usually three years at either a vocational school or academic high school.

It aims to require schooling through age 18, while the teachers' union has suggested this could even be extended to age 19.

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