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More than a thousand teenagers still without a study place

Finland is extending the age of compulsory schooling next month.

Koululaisia luokassa Itäkeskuksen peruskoulussa Helsingissä.
Parliament passed a law last year requiring teenagers to remain in education until their 18th birthday. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

Some 1,500 young people have been left without a study place after finishing their basic schooling this year, according to the Finnish National Agency for Education.

The final figure for this year will be known at the end of August when institutions have to inform municipalities how many young people don't have a place.

At that point, municipalities would have to find those young people a place to study, because the government's plan to extend the age of compulsory schooling comes into force from the start of August.

According to Katarina Männikkö of the agency, some 3,000 teenagers were still looking for a place in mid-June, when the results of applications were known.

"In a month the situation has progressed quite a bit, and many applicants have gotten a place from waiting lists," said Männikkö. "Now there are about 1,500 without a place."

Männikkö says that more will be known at the end of August, when schools tell municipalities which of their pupils don't have a place to study.

"If a pupil obligated to study does not have a study place at the start of summer, the organiser of their basic schooling helps and directs them over the summer," said Männikkö. "If they still don't have a place after the summer, then the responsibility shifts to the young person's municipality of residence."

Transitional phase

Männikkö says that some seek a study place outside the normal system of upper secondary schools or vocational education, for instance in adult educational institutions.

Sami-speaking students also have other options outside the normal system.

Last year some 900 pupils finishing their basic education were left without a study place, and according to Männikkö a few hundred of them applied to adult education providers.

As a last resort, municipalities are obliged to provide a transition course, for instance a 'tenth grade' class that can help students boost their grades so they can then attend Upper Secondary school.

In some cases, municipalities can join forces to provide such a service.

"The municipality has to take care of the tasks it's been given," said Terhi Päivärinta of the Association of Finnish Municipalities.

Männikkö says that the goal of extending the age of compulsory schooling is to ensure that someone is responsible for the duty to study at every stage of a pupil's progress through the system.

Law passed last year

Parliament passed the law on extending the age of compulsory schooling last year. The law extends the obligation to attend school or education until a pupil hits the age of 18.

At the same time, secondary education was made free of charge — meaning textbooks, equipment and study materials must now be provided by schools and colleges.

The new law comes into force at the start of August, but the duty to apply and continue in education came into force at the start of the year.

The Association of Finnish Municipalities had criticised the law as unnecessary, the timetable as too tight, and the funding attached to the change as inadequate.

Päivärinta says that despite their misgivings, municipalities are taking care of their obligations.

"Free-of-charge education starts in Upper Secondary schools, and municipalities have already made purchases linked to that," she said.

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