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Parents of school dropouts could face fines, Yle finds

Municipalities told Yle they have no clear guidelines on how to enforce new rules to keep teens in school until they turn 18.

Tornion yläaste Putaan koulun käytävä.
The new school year starting in August will give an indication of what the compulsory education reform will mean in practice for parents, schools and municipalities across the country. Image: Juuso Stoor / Yle

An Yle investigation has found that municipalities are confused when it comes to enforcing the new compulsory education reform that came into effect this spring.

Last December, MPs voted to extend the age of compulsory schooling, which resulted in secondary education becoming entirely free of charge.

However, the implementation of the new law still remains unclear. Yle found that some scenarios could even see parents of high school or vocational school drop-outs facing fines for failing to keep their children in school.

According to the new rules, simply being enrolled in a school does meet the compulsory education criteria—schools will need to work out how to ensure that minors are keeping up with their studies.

Guardians are primarily responsible when an underage student drops out. This means that by law, guardians must ensure that the child fulfils compulsory education requirements. Failure to get a teen to class may, under Finnish law, see a guardian accused of negligence, which could possibly result in fines.

But schools also have a responsibility to help struggling students. This means that they are supposed to quickly intervene and contact guardians when kids miss their lessons. Schools are also charged with assessing whether to offer additional support for failing students or whether there may be a need to contact child protection services or the police.

Municipalities also play a role. In addition to helping guide pupils into secondary education, they are also tasked with referring young people to counselling, such as rehabilitation or social services.

The government has said it hopes the reform will help to reduce youth marginalisation and ease the burden on families living in poverty by covering the cost of books and equipment.

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