We need better ways to recognise immigrants’ skills
Highly educated immigrants have already a lot of skills and learning that are, however, insufficiently recognised. There should be better and more systematic ways to recognise and accredit prior learning. The steering group on supporting immigrants in higher education submitted its report to Minister of Education and Culture Sanni Grahn-Laasonen on 25 September.
Although immigrants have a lot of prior skills and learning, the Finnish working life and education system are ill-equipped to recognise them. The steering group says that significant improvements are needed in the practices of recognising and accrediting immigrants’ prior learning. Otherwise immigrants end up in jobs they are overqualified for, or they complete studies overlapping with their existing degree. This sparks frustration and slows down integration.
“Finland needs and wants to put everyone’s skills to good use. We cannot afford to miss or waste anyone’s skills. The model for supporting immigrants in higher education provides ways to create more flexible educational paths for immigrants and to better recognise their prior learning,” Minister of Education Sanni Grahn-Laasonen says.
Poor command of the Finnish language is one of the greatest barriers to studies and employment. The steering group maintains that increasing both the supply of language studies suitable for highly-educated immigrants and the opportunities to study and complete degrees in English would promote immigrants’ integration in higher education. Moreover, preparatory studies bridging the gap between prior and future studies, available at workplaces or online for example, could promote immigrants’ access to working life and the official education system.
New beginnings for immigrants in higher education
The first new higher education services tailored to immigrants’ needs have been developed in piloting higher education institutions. The piloting institutions have organised guidance and advice services both for individual immigrants and for groups of immigrants. Moreover, services for recognising prior learning have been launched in the fields of technology and business administration. A larger network will continue the work to distribute existing best practices to other higher education institutions and to further expand and develop the services.
The Supporting Immigrants in Higher Education in Finland (SIMHE) initiative was introduced in the piloting institutions in 2016 to promote and support educational paths for highly-educated immigrants and immigrants eligible for higher education. The steering group appointed by the Ministry of Education and Culture has monitored and supported the piloting institutions. In 2016 the piloting institutions were the University of Jyväskylä and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. They were joined by the University of Helsinki, the University of Turku, Karelia University of Applied Sciences and Oulu University of Applied Sciences in 2017.
The Ministry of Education and Culture has launched several reforms that aim to create more flexible and faster educational paths for immigrants at different levels of education.
“The Government decided in its mid-term policy review session that a new education model tailored to the needs of immigrants should be designed for liberal adult education. The focus will be on literacy and Finnish/Swedish language studies. The Finnish summer universities have years of experience in organising Finnish language studies for immigrants. Proposals for funding and legislation will be submitted this autumn,” the Minister of Education says.
The reformed basic education for adults will start next year. Literacy studies for adults will also be reformed and made established parts of the education system. The intake of students into vocational education and training has been increased, and access to education has been facilitated by adding flexibility to the language skill requirements. Practises to identify and recognise immigrants’ skills are being improved.
There will be more funding for studies preparing for basic education, basic education for adults, instruction in Finnish/Swedish as a second language, and vocational education and training. Additional appropriations have been allocated to services for recognising and accrediting immigrants’ prior learning and to the developing of practices supporting immigrants’ educational paths.
Maahanmuuton vastuukorkeakoulutoiminta Publications of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland (in Finnish)
- Pekka Syrkänen, Senior Officer, Ministry of Education and Culture, tel. +358 295 3 30416
- Heidi Stenberg, Project Director, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, tel. +358 40 535 3388