Migrant Education in Finland

Presentation abstract of Mirja Tarnanen and Eveliina Manninen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

When discussing schools’ success in integrating students with a migrant background, several factors having to do with both policy and practices need to be discussed. From the policy level  point of view, Finnish  legislation and  the  Finnish  school  system  guarantee equal  opportunities for  education to all  Finnish  residents. The current  curriculum  for  basic  education  (ages  7−16) underlines the importance of language awareness and multilingualism in school communities  and  across  the  curriculum, the  aim  of  basic  education  being  to support  each pupil’s linguistic and  cultural identity and  the development  of his or  her  mother  tongue (NBE, 2014). Although, there are several initiatives aiming at raising awareness of diversity and inclusion in early childhood and comprehensive education, based on research evidence, there are also many educational and social challenges to be tackled. First, the PISA surveys show that the performance of students with a migrant background (both first and second generation) were significantly weaker compared to the performance of native population (Harju-Luukkainen et. al 2014; OECD 2013). Second, the amount of experiences and stabilization of practices vary between schools (Ouakrim-Soivio & Pirinen 2015) though, the number of migrants varies across schools and cities as well. Teachers have expressed their need for further training to meet cultural diversity (Kuukka, Ouakrim-Soivio, Paavola & Tarnanen 2015) but on the other hand, the further training is mainly sought by those who are interested in these issues and have a large number of immigrants in their schools. For these reasons, the development is taking root slowly in practices. (Kuukka, Ouakrim-Soivio, Pirinen, Tarnanen & Tiusanen 2015.) Thirdly, fewer students with a migrant background complete upper secondary studies than the native population and a remarkable proportion do not start upper secondary studies at all (Malin & Kilpi-Jakonen 2019; Pirinen 2015). Furthermore, the high unemployment rate of adults with a migrant background is alarming in terms of a social change of their children. In our paper, we discuss these challenges through the selected research findings and draw attention to possibilities to foster belonging and increase agency of students with a migrant background.