In the first part of this blog series about Finnish student movement’s parliamentary election themes, I wrote about climate change, the problems that it causes and the change all of us have to undertake to keep our planet inhabitable. In this second part of the series, I’ll look into education and its funding.
Education creates new opportunities and innovations whose worth we cannot even begin to guess. Educated experts can tackle the issues of making Finland carbon neutral and making this country a global leader of new technology and new learning.
What should be done during the upcoming electoral term to make sure that the lack of educated experts won’t hamper Finland’s success.
Money, money, money…
The past previous goverments of Finland have severely cut education funding. Universities of applied sciences have lost around 20 % of their funding, and the index increases of all institutions of higher education have been frozen. This has had a significant effect to the quality of education and the quantity of in-person instruction.
At the same time, wages and other fixed costs have risen. Institutions of higher education have had to make tough choices regarding their finances to prevent their economies from toppling over. The people who suffer from all of this are obviously the students.
It’s simply impossible to give schools new duties but no new resources to get them done.
Finnish education has attained world-wide fame for its quality and Finland’s good results in international studies that evaluate education systems, but in the recent years, Finland’s ranking has dropped. It’s time to make the funding for institutions of higher education index-linked again (that means it’ll roughly follow the overall development of wages). This way, the schools’ funding will be increased, and the quality of education will stop declining.
What’s more, it’s high time to give institutions of higher education more resources to deal with the increasing demand of new services related to lifelong learning. Lifelong learning is a theme that’s easy to throw around, but when it comes to practice, it’s simply impossible to give schools new duties but no new resources to get them done.
Time to make education truly equal for all
The next electoral season is the time to create a national access plan for Finnish education. An access plan will detail how we can ensure that students from all different backgrounds have an equal chance of attending higher education. Finland could learn from Ireland’s example, seeing they’ve been following such a plan for years already.
Following an access plan can make the accessibility of education better all the way from preschool to higher education. We have no other choice than to make sure every young person will be educated. Any other option is unacceptable.
The next goverment has to be brave and put in some serious work to make higher education truly accessible. Ensuring accessibility is a part of the Bologna Process and introducing it has to be one of the upcoming electoral term’s very first tasks.
(What’s this Bologna Process, you ask? It’s a process that started in 1998 that aims to ensure the comparability and the quality of European higher education. 48 countries take part in the process.)
It’s time to create a nationwide platform that allows students to browse courses from all Finnish institutions of higher education. Using this platform, a student could choose online courses from different institutions, no matter where they themselves live or study.
This way, students would have a way of selecting courses based on their own interests, not the school they happen to study in. This could create brand-new combinations of learning that’d be of use both to the students themselves and the whole the world of work of tomorrow.
Institutions of higher education should not regard each other as rivals or enemies, but instead, work together and join their forces in creating solutions for the future. When choosing a platform for this interdisciplinary effort, it’s important to look at the platforms that exist already and evaluate them. For example, CampusOnline is a very well-made solution for opening up the online courses to all.
P.S. If you’re eligible to vote in Finland, please remember that the advance voting begins today and goes on until April 9th. Have you chosen your candidate already?