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Developments: New reform for continuous learning

In the fall 2019 the Finnish government launched a policy reform on continuous learning, which focuses on the skills development of working age people and seeks new solutions to combine work and study. The new policies will be published by the end of 2020. One of the key issues the reform seeks to resolve is how non-formal and informal learning could be better exploited in competence development and how the learning outcomes could be made more visible. The social rights are also a fundamental part of the reform in which the education system, social welfare and working conditions are to support citizens' competence development.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of digitalisation and inclusion

During the past year, one of the major changes in Finland has been the digitalisation of learning due to the pandemic. The Finnish adult learning sector had a fairly smooth transition to distance learning, even though there are some institutions that offered only a few courses online.

The funding for the adult education sector stayed the same, and additional state support was given to compensate the losses caused by the pandemic. Overall, the situation of the adult education sector in Finland has slightly deteriorated mainly influenced by the COVID-19 crisis.

In the field of advocacy, the pandemic caused more work and led to intense interaction between adult education institutions on all levels. In some institutions, staff had to be temporarily dismissed as institutions closed down. Folk high schools and summer universities suffered the most. On the other hand they received almost full compensation in the government’s first round of financial support. For the upcoming year the main challenges are largely based on the consequences of the pandemic, adapting to new rules and regulations.

Civil society has an active role in the policy development

Civil society representatives are often consulted in the policy development. According to FAEA, the Upskilling Pathways strategy is clearly implemented in Finland and the reports of the European Semester mirror civil society’s experience. The global and national Agenda 2030 programme is evaluated annually by the government and civil society. Especially the sustainable development goals 4.5. (equal opportunities), 4.6 (basic skills such as literacy and numeracy) and 4.7. (education for sustainable development) are connected to the strategies of adult learning and education in Finland. The national evaluation of the goals raised some specific challenges to adult learning and education. The implementation of the goals in different regions is affected by urbanization, access to education, wellbeing and welfare services.

Social rights are at the core of the Finnish system

The social rights (i.e. equal rights to education, fair working conditions, inclusion) are at the core of the Finnish welfare society model. Thus, the European Pillar of Social Rights is well implemented. EAEA’s members have also been involved in the civil society consultation process of the pillar.

With the current leftwing-center government, the principles of inclusion and accessibility of education are at the center of the government program for 2019-2023. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted inclusion as a key issue, as learners with lower socio-economic positions were excluded from learning in many instances.