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Tuesday's papers: School starter skills, surrogacy support and preliminary fish kill probe results

Finland's press examines the skills of incoming school pupils, a poll on surrogate motherhood, and news from Rautalampi.

Lapsi piirtää esikoulukirjaan.
Incoming first-graders have largely the same skill sets throughout the country. Image: Yle

Main daily Helsingin Sanomat details an assessment of incoming first-graders' math and language skills, the first of its kind in Finland.

Results found relatively uniform skill levels across the country. It discovered more seven-year-olds with excellent reading, math and spoken language skills than those with poor skills. Children who exhibited good math skills were invariably better at reading and writing, and vice-versa.

About 40 percent could not yet read. Unlike in many other countries, Finnish early childhood education does not expect children to learn to read and write before they start primary school, as the emphasis is on socialisation and play. Most in this group could however already associate certain sounds with certain letters. Some 29 percent could already read entire sentences and 32 percent could read words.

Urban seven-year-olds were in general only slightly further advanced in reading, maths, and spoken language aptitude than their rural peers, HS reports, and overall, girls were just a bit more advanced than boys. Boys were represented at both ends of the learning spectrum, however, generally accounting for the most advanced and underdeveloped skills in the report.

Last year the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre examined the aptitude of 8,000 pupils, accounting for almost 13 percent of the total age group.

No surrogacy in Finland, despite apparent public support

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports on a poll that suggests that more than half (53 percent) of Finnish residents support surrogacy, a legal agreement whereby a woman agrees to give birth for others who intend to parent the child.

21 percent of the 1,000 people interviewed said they did not approve of the idea, while 26 percent said they couldn't say one way or the other. Women tended to be more supportive of the practice than men.

Laws in Finland currently prohibit surrogacy in all circumstances. For women with uterine disorders or a missing organ, surrogacy and adoption are the only options if they wish to have a child. Fertility treatment is also denied to people whom authorities suspect will give the child up for adoption.

In 2006, Finland extended the right to fertility treatment to single women and lesbian couples, as well as to heterosexual couples, with no age limit.

Investigators: No clear reason for massive fish kill

The agriculture union's daily Maaseudun Tulevaisuus examines preliminary results from an investigation into the deaths of thousands of fish in Rautalampi, a lake in central Finland last week.

Several reasons have been proposed for the incident, including the warm water temperature and large blue-green algae build-up in the lake.

Ilpo Käkelä, a biologist with the regional government in North Savo, tells the paper that because the lake is only one metre deep, water temperatures could have easily reached 30 degrees Celsius during the hot days of early August. Yet he says this is not conclusive, as conditions were even hotter last summer with no such loss of lake flora.

He tells the paper that the high blue-green algae content in the lake has made the water unsuitable for drinking or washing. Analysis found low levels of hypoxia or oygen deficiency in dead specimens, however.

Reports of the massive fish kill first surfaced late Wednesday evening, but the scale of the problem only became apparent later. On Friday the local daily Savon Sanomat reported that the number of dead fish ran to tens of thousands.

Police in eastern Finland today ruled out any suspicion of criminal activity in the case, MT reports. Käkelä tells the paper that testing will continue into the coming weeks.

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