16.09.2021, Johanna Järvinen-Taubert
Lifelong learning in Finland
Finland is known for its high quality education system and especially for its successful basic education. What is far less generally known, is the strong Finnish adult education and versatile opportunities for lifelong learning in Finland.
Finnish education policy makes it easy to be a lifelong learner. There are no “dead-ends” in Finnish education system (one can always carry on with one’s studies) and there are a lot of different paths to upgrade your education and competencies. Even as an adult you can completely change your career and study a new profession.
Adult education and training has many forms in Finland:
• General upper secondary education for adults
• Vocational adult education and training
• Adult education in higher education institutions
• Liberal adult education (=nonformal education, not aiming for a degree)
• Labour market training
In Finland, education is available for adults at all levels of education. Adults can also pursue any diploma-oriented education designed for young persons. Many educational institutions also offer separate adult education with courses taught in the evening and online. Adults can study at work, alongside employment or in their own time.
The fact that education also in higher education and adult education is in most cases free, makes it possible to continue one’s studies, even as an adult. Furthermore, you can get financial aid or an education allowance for your studies also as an adult.
Finns have in general very positive attitude towards education and many people seek opportunities to upgrade their professional competencies or widen their professional skills and knowledge. The shared understanding in Finland is: it is never too late to study and learn new things!
I have a living proof of a lifelong learner in my own family. My father, Pertti Järvinen, was a son of two gardeners who had a small garden and worked hard to make a living. My father was the first one of his family to go to high school, the first one to graduate from university and the first one to reach PhD (in mathematics). He came from a modest, hard-working background and did his career as a professor of Information sciences in the University of Tampere.
He retired in 2003, but never stopped what he loves: reading new scientific studies in his field and supervising new PhD students. His specific area of expertise is research methods and methodologies. He felt he still had some new perspectives on methodology in his own field and got an idea of another doctoral dissertation (this time in information systems research). And he made this plan come true. He defended his second doctoral dissertation in 10th of September this year in the University of Jyväskylä at the age of 81!
We highly value lifelong learning in Finland. In the end, it is a question whether we see education a commodity or a human right. Do all people, regardless of their social-financial background and age have a right to education? – Finland says: “Yes”.