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The development of social and civic competences and the idea of enabling active citizenship among all young people are broadly applied in Finnish policy. For example, the National Youth Work and Youth Policy Programme promotes ways that children and young people can participate in their everyday operational environments. The programme offers several examples of how the principle of `Learning to participate by doing´ can be supported. Additionally, youth organisations as well as local youth work services of municipalities (see Glossary) are offered suggestions and recommendations on how young people can take an active role in society. One of the key elements of the National Democracy Programme is to support educational institutions in democracy and human rights education. When it comes to the implementation of both programmes, they offer funding for different kinds of organisations to realise goals they set out in their programmes.
Several measures designed to support different forms of `learning to participate´ in formal education in both lower and upper secondary level have been implemented in Finland. The need to increase forms of participation were one of main aspects which motivated the renewal process of the curriculums for general and vocational upper secondary education, or to be more specific: in vocational education the terms ‘national qualification requirement’ and ‘education provider's locally approved curricula’ are used. These came into effect on 1 August 2016. The civic elements including participation, voluntary activities, an awareness of the various forms of civic activity and societal impact are integrated in all education activities and subjects. Most closely linked to these are history, social studies, geography, religion and ethics, economics, working life skills and health education. On the other hand, the curriculum still contains the separate subject of citizenship education. For example, for general upper secondary education the new curriculum included one additional course of citizenship. On the other hand, according to the new curriculum for basic education, the subject starts already in the sixth grade (pupils are 12 years old). (More about Curricula and Qualifications by National Agency for Education)
Participative structures within formal educations settings
Competence gaining through active participation is more emphasised in all levels of education since new curricula were introduced on 1 August 2016. According to the curricula, the aim is to create a culture of action which supports students’ engagement and participation. The idea is to include all students in the planning, realising, developing and evaluating of education and matters concerning the learning community. According to the Basic Education Act, the Act on General Upper Secondary Schools (in Finnish) and Act on Vocational Education (in Finnish), education providers must promote the participation of all pupils and students and to ensure that all students have an opportunity to express their opinions on matters related to students’ status. In addition, schools and educational institutions must have a student body. The task of the student body is to promote collaboration between students and the school, and it must be heard in decisions regarding the drafting of school curricula and other plans, such as those involving the formulation of codes of conduct in schools.
Teaching citizenship skills by rehearsing democracy in the educational institution and beyond has created new challenges for teacher education.
Measures to encourage student participation in the local community and wider society
The idea of deepening co-operation with the surrounding local environment, civic organisations, enterprises and other actors is highlighted in the curriculums for lower and upper secondary schools regardless of whether education is general or vocational. Additionally, the principles of Preparatory education for Vocational basic education, either for work or functional independency, the strengthening of equal participation possibilities, action as plenipotentiary citizen and taking part in the actions of the local community are emphasised.
The strategic goals of the working group appointed by the Ministry of Finance (the report in Finnish) state that the recognition of the skills and competences acquired through, for example, voluntary work should be improved in the educational system, and that cooperation between schools and organisations should be increased (for more information, visit Youth Wiki/Finland 2.7 Skills recognition).
Partnerships between formal education providers, youth organisations and youth work providers
A partnership between formal education providers and youth work providers, including youth organisations, has been added into the new curricula that came into use on 1 August 2016 for lower and upper secondary education. Also, both the National Youth Work and Youth Policy Programme and the National Democracy Programme set goals for such cooperation.
In many cases, cooperation has already been established for many years, which means that processes started during older versions of the curriculum. Cooperation has been common especially when it comes to the lower level of secondary education. The youth work services of the municipalities have been active in organising school youth work. The Mannerheim League for Child Welfare offers training for pupils who are peer-supporters in their school. The Operation a Day’s Work (ODW) Finland offers pupils the possibility for doing a Day’s Work for charity. The Development Centre Opinkirjo organises activities for pupil councils and Youth Parliament clubs in schools, the culmination of which is the Youth Parliament meeting at the national level. The Youth Academy offers knowhow and funding for pupils to realise their projects. Since the beginning of 2018, the Youth Academy coordinates a consortium which was chosen by the Ministry of Culture and Education to function as a Youth work centre of expertise under the theme “Participation of young people”. The Union of Local Youth Councils (in Finnish, see also Youth Wiki/ Finland 5.3 Youth representation bodies) and the Development Centre Opinkirjo is also member of that consortium. (See more about the Youth work centres of expertise in Youth Wiki/Finland 10.8 Current debates and reforms).
The Finnish National Youth Council Allianssi organised parliamentary elections candidate panels in the lower and upper secondary schools in cooperation with political parties, as well as the `shadow-parliamentary elections´ both for the 2011 and 2015 parliamentary elections and the municipal elections of 2012 and 2017. Additionally, the event `market place of politics´ have been organised by the same bodies, with the idea of opening doors for political parties to come to school as part of civic education. Allianssi is an umbrella organisation for 130 national youth organisations lobbying for their viewpoint and youth work in general in public decision-making.
As described in Youth Wiki/Finland 5.6 Supporting Youth Organisations, state funding for youth organisations includes measures of monitoring the quality and impact of funded projects.
The Finnish National Agency of Education offers all kinds of in-service training for educational staff.
The Finnish National Youth Council Allianssi organises training events, including sessions with information regarding youth participation for the youth sector and educators working with young people. The main event is the Youth Work Conference with hundreds or even thousands of participants, see more about the forthcoming conference in 2021 in Youth Wiki/Finland 10.8 Current debates and reforms.
Additionally, many other youth organisations, other than the ones mentioned previously, produce material for learning participation by doing, carrying out school visits, and organised together the Citizen Participation -markets in the Educa-fairs. The cooperation in the Educa-fairs is coordinated by Finnish Development NGOs – Fingo, which functions as an umbrella organisation of 300 member organisations working in the areas of development cooperation and global education. Educa-fairs are the largest event for the education and training sector in Finland, in 2019 there was more than 18 000 participants.
National centre of expertise for youth information and counselling – Koordinaatti offers training for professionals regarding youth information and counselling. Particular emphasis is on distributing knowledge on young people as planners, providers and evaluators of services. Additionally, through its network structure it facilitates multi-professional cooperation and the sharing of knowhow and good practices in the development of quality services among those who are, for example, organising local, regional or national youth information and counselling services. Learning possibilities are realised through various training sessions and seminars.
Koordinaatti is also responsible for the coordination and support of two services online. The youth initiative channel ‘Ideas of Young People’ (Nuortenideat.fi) is a dedicated citizen involvement tool for young people (for more information, visit Youth Wiki/Finland 5.4 Young People's Participation in Policy-Making). It also allows different stakeholders to consult with young citizens and to involve them in the development of services, such as in educational institutions as part of democratic education. Koordinaatti has also produced guides for democratic education.
One of the main objectives of Koordinaatti is to support young people´s independence and sense of responsibility by offering information and counselling services on different issues of life. At the national level, Koordinaatti operates the online information and counselling channel for young people called ‘Life of Young People’ (Nuortenelama.fi). Koordinaatti is a member of the European Youth Information and Counselling Agency, ERYICA.