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Wednesday's papers: Kela rethinks study grant, public trust in gov't, financial literacy and Schjerfbeck

Finnish media look at university student aid, confidence in PM Rinne's coalition, teaching about money, and lost art.

Kuva Helene Schjerfbeckin öljymaalauksesta Lukeva tyttö (1910-luku)
Helene Schjerfbeck's Reading Girl is expected to sell for 250,000 euros at auction. Image: Annmaris Huutokauppakamari

Leading daily Helsingin Sanomat starts the day with news of Kela launching an investigation into the possibility of providing a year-round study grant for university students.

Ilpo Lahtinen from the state-owned benefits administrator admits that it is unfair that the financial security of one segment of the population is cut off for certain months, as "every group of society needs to be able to get by throughout the year".

A letter from the union of university students last week brought up the fact that university students are not entitled to a summer holiday in practice because if they cannot secure a summer job, they have to attend classes through the summer in order to qualify for the study grant. Study grant eligibility has also been capped at 48 months and so collecting the 250 euros per month through the summer eats away at this total, creating stress and forcing students to rely more heavily on student loans.

Lahtinen says that if there is political will, the study grant cap could be increased to 60 months. This would provide 12 monthly payments for five years, the time in which university students are expected to attain a master's degree in Finland. He stresses that the proposed change has to be analysed thoroughly before it can be taken into use, however, as the apparent solution to one problem could end up creating a string of new ones.

One-third has faith in new coalition

The Joensuu-based newspaper Karjalainen reports on a new Kantar TNS Gallup survey that found that 35 percent of respondents judged the ability of Prime Minister Antti Rinne's left-leaning government to run the country for the next four years as "very or somewhat good". A similar percentage had their doubts, and the rest wouldn't say one way or another.

This measure of confidence is six to eight percentage points weaker than that enjoyed by the centre-right coalition formed by Rinne's predecessor Juha Sipilä after taking office in 2015 in a matching survey.

The Municipal Development Foundation-commissioned poll suggested that people's trust in the Rinne coalition nevertheless outweighed their trust in the opposition, as only 28 percent of respondents agreed that the parties leading the opposition have the "competence to take care of Finnish affairs and offer the government political alternatives".

Balancing books as a school subject

The tabloid Iltalehti carries the results of another survey assessing Finnish residents' opinion of teaching basic financial skills as a part of the core curriculum.

The IROResearch poll, commissioned by the Finnish Foundation for Share Promotion, found that 80 percent of respondents agreed that basic money management principles should be a compulsory subject in Finnish schools. The most important topics respondents suggested should be covered included everyday money use, saving, investing and sustainable consumption. A full 94 percent of respondents said that budgeting and the everyday use of personal money streams were skills that every Finnish residents should master.

In exchange, respondents were most willing to cut back on religion/ethics instruction, with one-quarter ready to sacrifice some Swedish language instruction and one-fifth prepared to arrange fewer art classes.

Bank of Finland board member Marja Nykänen tells IL that Finland needs to come up with a national financial education strategy like the kind recommended by the OECD. "After this step, we could better enhance and coordinate financial literacy."

Valuable paintings resurface

And Finland's other major tabloid Ilta-Sanomat finishes today's review with a story on two oil paintings from the celebrated Finnish artist Helene Schjerfbeck discovered in the estate of a Tampere dentist.

An auction will be arranged to sell the works, with "Reading Girl" expected to fetch 250,000 euros and "Yellow Roses" another 200,000 euros. Pirkka Lehtinen-Sillanpää, the deceased, indicated in her last will and testament her wish that the proceeds of the sale of the paintings - which have been out of the public eye for 50 years - be donated to charity.

"It is rare to come across top finds like this in estates. The owner was a real art lover, as there were several other major works in her collection," auctioneer Jukka Takala tells IS.

Helene Schjerfbeck (1862–1946) is best known for her series of self-portraits and a painting entitled "The Convalescent".

This past Saturday, The Guardian in the UK ran a lengthy story on "Finland's Munck" ahead of a major exhibition of Schjerfbeck's work at the Royal Academy of Arts opening 20 July in London.

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