Questions and answers related to compulsory education
The Government proposal on extending compulsory education will be submitted to Parliament on 15 October 2020. This page provides answers to frequently asked questions on the extension of compulsory education. The information is in line with the Government proposal.
The objective of extending compulsory education is to raise the level of education and competence at all levels of education, to narrow learning gaps and to improve equality and non-discrimination in education.
The aim is that every young person will complete upper secondary education. As requirements for skills, knowledge and competence increase, an upper secondary qualification is now the minimum level of education for finding employment.
The extension of compulsory education is due to become effective in 2021 by one age group at a time. The obligation to apply for and continue in upper secondary education will affect those young people who were in year 9 of comprehensive school education in spring 2021 (born in 2005). From this age group, the extension of compulsory education will apply to all young people transitioning from comprehensive school education to upper secondary education.
Compulsory education ends when the student reaches the age of 18 or when they complete an upper secondary qualification (a general upper secondary qualification or vocational qualification) or an equivalent qualification gained abroad.
The extension of compulsory education will apply to post-comprehensive school education.
The compulsory education after comprehensive school education is mainly completed in general upper secondary education or in vocational education and training. It can also be completed in education provided for the transition phase between comprehensive school education and upper secondary education. Currently education provided at transition points includes voluntary additional basic education (also known as year 10), preparatory education for general upper secondary education and preparatory education for vocational education and training. From autumn 2022, these programmes will be combined to form preparatory education and training for education leading to a qualification. Compulsory education may also be completed in folk high school programmes intended for students who are required to attend compulsory education.
Students in need of intensive special needs support can complete their compulsory education in preparatory education and training for work and independent living.
In certain situations, compulsory education can also be completed in comprehensive school education for adults or in education provided by folk high schools for immigrants.
Before the end of the final year of comprehensive school education, a learner who is required to attend compulsory education must apply for upper secondary, transition-point or other education that falls within the scope of compulsory education. The obligation to apply for education will continue until the student within the scope of compulsory education receives a study place.
The following would be free of charge for students:
instruction (already free of charge)
daily meals (already free of charge)
textbooks and other learning materials required for instruction
tools, clothing, ingredients and other materials required for instruction
the 5 tests required for the completion of the matriculation examination at the end of the general upper secondary syllabus and, in the case of these tests, retake of rejected tests
school commute of seven kilometres or more
in some special cases, accommodation and travel costs.
The students would still have to pay for the equipment needed in education focusing on special interests, such as musical instruments and sports equipment.
The right to upper secondary education free of charge would apply to students who are enrolling in autumn 2021 and who are required to attend compulsory education. The right to upper secondary education free of charge would last until the end of the calendar year in which the student reaches the age of 20. As a rule, when students at the age of 16 transition from compulsory school education to upper secondary education, they would have a right to free education for 4.5 years. Within this time period, this right would apply to education leading to a qualification as well as various types of education and training provided at transition points.
Under the provisions in force, the students in upper secondary education do not pay anything for staying at the school’s halls of residence. These provisions would not change, but the legislation would be amended so that if the educational institution takes boarders, the places should primarily be offered to students in compulsory education and to other students covered by the education provided free of charge.
According to the current provisions, students in general upper secondary education and vocational education and training have the right to one daily meal. In vocational education and training, students also have the right to have several meals on the basis of the length of the school day in certain situations. In boarding schools, students are entitled to full board. These principles would not change if upper secondary education was provided free of charge.
If upper secondary education becomes free of charge, the limit for school commutes entitling the student to a school transport subsidy will be reduced from 10 km to 7 km. In addition, the limit for the minimum monthly travel costs of EUR 54 will be dropped. In upper secondary education, free travel to and from school would be compensated through the school transport subsidy paid by Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.
A young person attending compulsory education may participate in the rehabilitation services provided by Kela. These services would support the completion of compulsory education.
A young person who is within the scope of compulsory education must have a study place in an educational institution. However, workshops may serve as a learning environment where education can be completed. In other words, compulsory education can also be completed through workshops if the education provider, the student and the workshop have agreed on the matter.
Compulsory education can also be completed in education provided at transition points. The current programmes include voluntary additional basic education, also known as year 10, preparatory education for vocational education and training, and preparatory education for general upper secondary education for immigrants.
Separate educational programmes for the transition will be combined from autumn 2022 to form preparatory education and training for education leading to a qualification. This would consist of units that can be flexibly assembled to meet each student’s needs, promoting the student’s transition to upper secondary education leading to a qualification.
The preparatory education and training for work and independent living would remain a separate module.
Compulsory education will be free of charge until the student has completed a qualification. After the reform, all textbooks and other learning materials, as well as tools, clothing, ingredients and materials needed for the instruction, will be free of charge for students attending compulsory education. The obligation to provide education free of charge will also cover the necessary school transport, sufficient daily meals and, in some cases, student accommodation. For more information, see the question of whether studies are free of charge.
In past years, many specific measures have been adopted to help young people who have only completed comprehensive school education, but they have not helped much. Around 16% of young people in the age group still fail to complete an upper secondary qualification. In practice, these days you will need an upper secondary qualification to get a job.
Students must make sufficient progress in compulsory education as specified in the provisions of the acts on each type of education In practice, this means graduation in three to four years for the general upper secondary qualification and the initial vocational qualification.
Students have a right to apply for a study place freely and according to their choice. The place can be anywhere in Finland.
The following financial resources have been reserved in the General Government Fiscal Plan to cover the costs of extending compulsory education and to make upper secondary education free of charge:
Altogether EUR 22 million in 2021
Altogether EUR 65 million in 2022
Altogether EUR 107 million in 2023
Altogether EUR 129 million in 2024
The change will affect one age group at a time, which means that the need for additional appropriations will gradually increase. The average duration of studies in general upper secondary education and vocational education and training is approximately three years, which means that the need for additional appropriations will be fully met in 2024.
The responsibility for completing compulsory education rests with both the students and their parents and carers or other legal representatives. If parents or carers intentionally or by gross negligence neglect their duty to supervise that their child completes compulsory education, they may be sentenced to a fine.
Providers of comprehensive school education, general upper secondary education and vocational education and training, alongside the other providers of compulsory education and, ultimately, the municipality of residence, have a duty to guide and supervise students in compulsory education. This will ensure that students are adequately supported and guided throughout their studies.
After the completion of comprehensive school education, the provider of comprehensive school education remains responsible for the guidance, support and supervision of compulsory education until students transition to the next level of education.
The provider of comprehensive school education must support the students in their transition to upper secondary education. If a student who is about to complete comprehensive school education fails to find a study place, the provider of comprehensive school education must notify the student's municipality of residence, which then has a duty of care towards the young person.
When a student begins their studies in upper secondary education, the education provider, for example the general upper secondary school or vocational institution, becomes responsible for their guidance, support and supervision.
Education providers will also continue to guide and support students who wish to switch from one educational institution or field to another until they have found a new study place.
If necessary, students can be referred to services (healthcare or social services, youth services etc.) that provide support for the student in their life situation and enable them to continue their studies.
It is the duty of the municipality of residence to monitor the situation of those young people who have completed their comprehensive school education in the spring but who are still without a study place in the autumn. They will receive guidance on how to apply for upper secondary education. If necessary, they are also guided to seek access to other services, such as healthcare and social services and rehabilitation. If, despite guidance and cooperation, a suitable study place cannot be found and the young person, who is within the scope of compulsory education, is assessed to be ready for education, the municipality has a duty to provide them with a study place in relevant transition-point education.
Similarly, it is the duty of the municipality of residence to guide those pupils who have dropped out of their upper secondary education and who have not found a new study place.
The provider of comprehensive school education has the duty to guide and supervise students at the pre-application stage in year 9 to help them access the next level of education after lower secondary school. If a person who is required to attend compulsory education does not receive a study place through the joint application procedure, the provider of comprehensive school education would continue to offer guidance during the summer to help the student apply for a study place through the rolling admissions that follow the joint application procedure. If at the end of the summer the student had not received a study place or if they had discontinued their studies, their municipality of residence would become responsible for their guidance and supervision.
No sanctions are imposed on learners themselves for neglecting compulsory education. The parents and carers or other legal representatives are responsible for making sure that compulsory education is completed. If parents or carers intentionally or by gross negligence neglect their duty to supervise that their child completes compulsory education, they may be sentenced to a fine for failing to monitor their child's attendance.
Studies within the scope of compulsory education must progress in line with the provisions of the acts on each type of education.
Compulsory education can also be completed in apprenticeship training, which means that the student can work during compulsory education. Any other employment in addition to studies is at the student’s own discretion.
Compulsory education does not mean compulsory school attendance. Instead, it means a duty to develop knowledge, skills and competence for the ultimate goal of gaining an upper secondary qualification.
The act will not impose minimum attendance. However, students have a duty under the Act on General Upper Secondary Education and the Act on Vocational Education and Training, for example, to participate in education as required by their personal plan.
A provision on the allocation of working hours of young people attending compulsory education will be added to the Young Workers’ Act. According to the provision, the working time of an employee attending compulsory education must be arranged in such a way that it does not preclude participation in education in accordance with the curriculum or other education plan. The employee must inform the employer well in advance of any compulsory attendance required of them. The employee has the right to refuse a shift that prevents them from attending instruction.
According to the Act on General Upper Secondary Education, students draw up a personal study plan for themselves. The plan is drawn up with the support of the teaching staff at the beginning of the studies and updated regularly as the studies progress.
Under the Act on Vocational Education and Training, education providers have an obligation to prepare a personal competence development plan for each student together with the student. Under the provisions currently in force, education providers must guide students who are at risk of dropping out. Under the Act on General Upper Secondary Education, students who have informed the education provider of their intention to discontinue studies have the right to receive guidance on applying for other studies. Under the Act on Vocational Education and Training, it is also the duty of the education provider to, together with the student, find a qualification or programme that is more suitable for them and, if necessary, guide the student on applying for another education provider’s programme or some other appropriate service.
A learner attending compulsory education could discontinue their studies for a fixed term or until further notice on the following grounds:
1) long-term illness or disability preventing compulsory education 2) maternity, paternity or parental leave 3) temporary stay abroad (e.g. exchange studies, family moves abroad temporarily) 4) another weighty reason relating to the life situation that prevents compulsory education.
The decision to discontinue compulsory education would be made on application by the student, their parent or carer or other legal representative. A decision to discontinue compulsory education would be made by the education provider or, if the learner does not have a study place, their municipality of residence.
If a young person attending compulsory education were about to discontinue their studies, the education provider should, together with the student and their parent or carer, examine how the student could complete the studies in another learning environment or apply for other education or training. If necessary, the alternatives would be sought in cooperation with another education provider. In addition, the education provider must examine the adequacy of the support measures the student has received and, if necessary, instruct the student to seek access to other appropriate services.
If the student attending compulsory education announced that they are about to discontinue their studies, the decision on discontinuation could not be made until the student has demonstrated that they have found a new study place. If the student’s right to study were to end due to a large number of absences, the education provider should investigate the student’s situation before making a decision on terminating the right to study. If the education provider is not informed that the student will continue their studies in another educational institution, the education provider will have to notify student’s municipality of residence.
It is the duty of the comprehensive school education provider to guide and supervise learners in compulsory education during their comprehensive school education and the joint application procedure. As part of this guidance, the provider will assess, together with the learner and their parent or carer, which education would be most suitable for them, taking into account any special support needs.
If a young person has a long-term illness or disability that prevents them from attending compulsory education, they may discontinue compulsory education for a fixed period or until further notice. During the study break, the young person will receive care and support to enable them to resume their studies.
The student must apply for the discontinuation of compulsory education. The decision will be made by the education provider or the municipality.
Study guidance will be strengthened at the various levels of education.
Young people need to be informed sufficiently early about the educational options available to them. If necessary, they must also receive personal and other study guidance so that they can choose the study place that best suits them. In addition, the duty to provide post-qualification guidance, which already applies to general upper secondary education, will be extended to vocational education and training. After graduation, the provider of vocational education and training would guide the student at the pre-application stage if the student intends to apply for further studies.
With regard to compulsory education, the education provider’s responsibility for providing guidance and supervision would end when the student turns 18, in other words, when they complete compulsory education. However, even after the student has completed their compulsory education, the education provider would have the duty to guide the student in accordance with the general principles set out in the Act on Vocational Education and Training and the Act on General Upper Secondary Education. The Act on Vocational Education and Training would be specified so that the education provider would have to guide the student after graduation if they are about to apply for further studies.
Yhteystiedot - Yhteystietonosto
Mika Tammilehto, Director General Ministry of Education and Culture, Ammatillisen koulutuksen osasto (AMOS) Telephone:0295330308[email protected]
Eeva-Riitta Pirhonen, Director General Ministry of Education and Culture, Varhaiskasvatuksen, perusopetuksen ja vapaan sivistystyön osasto ( VAPOS ), Ylijohtaja Telephone:0295330258[email protected]