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Most kids in Finland like going to school, health watchdog survey finds

The survey also found many pupils don't regularly eat breakfast, but appear to be binge drinking less.

Hedie ja melina tutkivat koulussa kännykkäviestejä 16.9.2019.
File photo of pupils in classroom. Image: Katriina Laine / Yle

More than half of young people and kids said they enjoy attending school and that they felt teachers are interested in their lives, according to the National Institute for Health and Welfare's (THL) School Health Promotion Study.

Particularly fourth and fifth graders, as well as vocational students, were most likely to enjoy school. However, school fatigue was cited most often by some 20 percent of girls in the eighth and ninth grades, according to the report.

"An operating culture that supports participation in educational institutions is an important part of well-being promotion among children and young people, and it should be further strengthened," THL senior researcher Riikka Ikonen said in a release.

THL's report was based on a survey of responses from 260,000 students in the fourth, fifth, eighth and ninth grades, general upper secondary school pupils as well as first- and second-year vocational students across the country.

Bullying and violence

The public health watchdog said levels of bullying in schools remained steady last year compared to figures from a similar survey carried out in 2017. But bullying in general has been on a decline over the past decade, particularly among eighth and ninth graders, according to the report.

However, seven percent of fourth and fifth graders reported they had been bullied at least once a week. Meanwhile, six percent of eighth graders, one percent of ninth graders and four percent of upper secondary school and vocational students said they'd been bullied at least weekly.

Unlike previous studies on attitudes in Finland's schools, this year the School Health Promotion Study also examined violence and harassment, finding that boys faced physical threats more than girls. Meanwhile, female pupils reported more sexual harassment and violence - and also reported more emotional abuse and physical violence at home than boys.

Girls were found to be more likely to report violent incidents than boys were, but boys were also more likely to have said they get support from adults both in and away from schools.

Most skip breakfast, but binge drink less

Just 26 percent of fourth and fifth graders said they ate breakfast every day before school, 41 percent of eighth and ninth graders regularly did so and only 35 percent of upper secondary school students said they had breakfast every school day.

Meanwhile, 53 percent of vocational school students reported regularly eating breakfast before school.

Additionally, around one-third of eighth and ninth graders - as well as upper secondary and vocational school students - said they did not eat lunch at school every day.

Binge drinking among children and youths has been on the decline over the past ten years, particularly in those attending vocational schools. However, nearly one third of vocational school students (27%) reported they have been very intoxicated at least once per month, while 18 percent of upper secondary students reported drinking until they were very drunk on a monthly basis.

Meanwhile, 10 percent of eighth and ninth graders said they'd been very intoxicated at least once each month.

Relationships with parents

The survey also found that kids and youth reported being mostly content with their lives, saying that an increasing number said they were able to talk about important matters with their parents.

"Open communication between the child and the parent protects the child in many ways and promotes well-being. When the child has good communication with their parents, it is also easier for them to raise more difficult matters that are weighing on their mind and to receive support for them from their parents," Ikonen said.

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