Adult Education in Finland

Terhi Kouvo

What is meant in the country when you talk about Adult Education?
It means study opportunities provided for adults: self-motivated education, staff training and labour market training.
Adult education is provided to ensure the availability and competence of the labour force, provide educational opportunities for the entire adult population, and strengthen social cohesion and equality.

What is typical for Adult Education in the country?
It is available for everyone despite of age, gender, ethnic opr other background, free of charge and funded by the state. The role of non formal adult education is big.
Aims of adult educationa are to extend working life, raise the employment rate, improve productivity, enhance multiculturalism and implement the conditions for lifelong learning. In addition, adult education alleviates the effects of the recession.

Legal basis
The Ministry of Education prepares legislation and government resolutions concerning education and culture and steers activities in its sector.  Law for non formal adult education 1998, renovated in 2010-2011.

Responsible public bodies / ministries
The Ministry of Education and Culture is responsible for self-motivated education, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy for labour market training and employers for staff training.

Resposibilities of the Ministry of Education and Culture are
–  Developing the conditions for national adult education policy and lifelong learning
– Vocational adult education and training, apprenticeship training and competence-based qualifications
– Adult education offered by higher education institutions and open learning
– General adult education and national certificates of language proficiency
–  Liberal adult education and educational and guidance organisations
– Guidance on adult education, counselling and the recognition of competence acquired in different ways
– Assessing the need for and provision of adult education as well as guidance (permission to provide education and performance steering)
– Coordinating training for teaching staff and immigrants
– Legislation, funding and economic planning for the sector
– The quality of the activities, evaluations and international cooperation
The Council for Lifelong Learning is an expert body within the Ministry of Education and Culture considerin issues relating to cooperation between education and working life as well as the conditions for lifelong learning and developing adult education. The Council comprises 14 members and their deputy members, and they possess diverse expertise in the areas of education, the labour market and research.

Relevant umbrella associations and national (service) organisations
Non formal adult education:
– Vapaa Sivistystyö ry: Finnish Adult Education Association (FAEA)
– Kansalaisopistojen liitto: adult education centres 
– Suomen Kansanopistoyhdistys: folk high schools
– Suomen Kesäyliopistot: summer universities
– Opintokeskukset: study centres

Providers of Adult Education
Some 800 educational institutions provide further and continuing education of varying duration, non -degree studies, as well as education leading to a qualification. Learning mostly takes place in working life and through informal studies using networks, libraries and other learning environments.
Adult education organisations are run by the government, local authorities, municipal consortia, private associations, foundations and companies.
Main providers of adult education and training in Finland, number of institutions

Adult education centres, 205
Folk high schools, 91
Study centres, 11
Summer universities, 20
Physical education centres, 14

Upper secondary schools for adults, 54

Initial vocational education providers,220
Specialised vocational institutions, 54
Vocational adult education centres, 45

Polytechnics, 29

An average of 12 per cent of the Ministry of Education and Culture’s main title of expenditure is allocated to adult education.
Of this total, about 40 per cent is allocated to vocational adult education and training and apprenticeship training, one fourth goes to adult education provided by higher education institutions, a fifth to non formal adult education, and about 5 per cent to developing adult education and continuing education for teaching staff
Parliament passes legislation concerning adult education and training and decides on the resources allocated to it in the state budget.
About half of non formal adult education costs are covered by the government and the rest mostly comes from student fees and from the maintaining organisations. The purpose of state funding is to guarantee the largest possible provision without burdening the students with high fees. adult education and training receives 12-13% of the appropriations allocated through the Ministry of Education and Culture main class in the state budget. Almost half of this funding is channelled to vocational training and one fifth to non formal education.
Education and training leading to qualifications is financed by the public administration, except university degree education, which is totally government-financed. Training leading to further and specialist qualifications is mostly publicly funded but may charge moderate fees.
Employers purchase staff-development training from adult education institutions and firms. The labour administration also purchases a great deal of different training for unemployed people and for those at risk of unemployment.

Participation rate
More than 1.7 million citizens participate in different types of adult education each year. More than half of this number is made up of the working age population, and this figure is high also in international terms. The aim is for the annual share of the working age population participating in education to reach 60 per cent by 2012.
The goal is to increase the study opportunities of people with no vocational education and training or whose education is outdated, entrepreneurs, the staff of small and medium-sized enterprises, immigrants and people aged over 55.

Quality system / insurance
Adults can study for qualifications or parts of qualifications in open instruction (such as open university and open polytechnic) and attend training preparing for competence-based qualifications. An important part of adult education consists of further and continuing training designed to upgrade and update competencies.
In language tests, adults can demonstrate their proficiency in nine languages.
Non formal education institutions offer courses in subjects relating to citizenship skills and society and in different crafts and subjects on a recreational basis. There are advisory organisations which arrange courses relating to various hobbies.

Relevant links 

EUROPEDIA: European Encyclopedia on National Education Systems – Finland
EAEA Country presentation: Finland
General country information: Wikipedia: Finland
Ministry of Education and Culture