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Thursday's papers: Next curriculum, EU rail funding, daycare food strike

New curriculum in 2021, a Tampere-Helsinki rail upgrade is at risk and kindergarten workers in Turku join a strike.

Juna ajaa lumisella radalla Tampereen Näsinkallion kupeessa
Plans to make intercity travel faster are at risk. Image: Antti Eintola / Yle

Finland is updating its secondary education curriculum, bringing what Helsingin Sanomat called a "revolutionary" change to high school teaching. The new system will be introduced to the public at the national secondary education symposium (Lukiopäivät) on Thursday.

The national curriculum is a framework whose details each Finnish high school may implement as it sees fit. The current version was introduced in 2017, but a reform is already in the works. Some schools may opt to keep their teaching as is, although the HS article found this to be "unlikely".

Changes to the current education system include moving from course-based teaching to study points and modules (as in Finnish universities). One study point will correspond to half of one course, and students will need 150 points to matriculate. Students can earn 1-3 study points from each module, which may be combined across different subjects.

Other key changes include an increased focus on so-called "extensive know-how", meaning general life skills as well as linguistic and conceptual competency; redoubled attention to students' mental health; and collaborations between universities and companies.

HS wrote that teenage students would also be directed to be more involved in the composition of the curriculum itself.

The government hopes to raise the proportion of 25-34-year-old university-level graduates in Finland from the current 41 percent to at least 50 percent by 2030.

Main rail line EU funds uncertain

Another reform underway in Finnish infrastructure is a plan to further develop the country's main rail line, known as Finland Railway. Rail connections between Riihimäki and Tampere are first in line, Aamulehti reported; the Ministry of Transport and Communications aims to cut commute times to one hour between the capital and the large cities of Tampere and Turku.

However, EU funding for the project may become an issue, as the deadline for applications to the European Commission's Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) closes in February. A project company has not yet been established to oversee the application process, the ministry's economic development head Sanna Ruuskanen said in AL.

"We may not be able to establish one in time. But the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (FTIA) can apply for other funding instead," Ruuskanen said. "Our goal is to apply for CEF funds, but it's all down to scheduling now."

Municipalities began talks to form a project company on Wednesday, AL wrote. The late start has director for the Pirkanmaa EU office Hannele Räikkönen worried.

"We're concerned that the necessary steps will not be taken by 28 February. It also seems that there is no plan B."

Räikkönen said that the European Commission recommended that Finland apply for funding specifically for Finland Railway, so that the next round of applications in 2021-2027 could focus on financing the actual construction project.

"If we miss this deadline, we will miss the whole of the next programme as well," Räikkönen said.

Turku daycares miss hot food

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reported that the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL) and the Federation of Public and Private Sector Employees (Jyty) started strike action on Wednesday in Turku schools.

Warm food will not be served for the rest of the week in Turku primary and lower secondary schools, affecting some 20,000 students.

The union originally ruled that 24-hour kindergartens would not be affected, but JHL and Jyty extended their strike to affect some 700 children in round the clock Turku daycare, IS wrote.

The city of Turku has contracted Fazer Food Services to provide 24-hour daycares with daily meals for the duration of the strike.

JHL and Jyty are striking to protest newly-proposed collective bargaining agreements by service sector company Arkea, which is almost fully owned by the city of Turku.

Unions fear that the agreements of more than a thousand employees would be adversely affected by the change, IS reported.

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