The government will cut EUR 190m from vocational education from the beginning of next year onward.
In practice this means a decrease of approximately 18 000 vocational education places, a third of total freshmen places available for the youth. Places for mature students would lessen by half. Thousands of teachers fear for their jobs.
Cuts in vocational education mean that local councils must increase the size of study groups and they are forced to cut down in-person classes generally. These changes will have a negative effect on the students who need support in their learning. At the same time every fifth Finnish male under the age of 26 already lacks a degree in higher education.
The government is deepening the inequalities in our society, throwing out its promises to guarantee youth education. The current administration has cut the youth policy budget from EUR 60m to EUR 3m. Yet the Education Secretary Grahn-Laasonen refuses to admit that these major cuts would in any way impact the level of education. The rhetoric is that savings will be made by re-structuring instead of decreasing the level of education itself.
As if the consequences of shutting down a higher education institution were not understood: outside of large cities it is already difficult to find higher education close to home. The inequalities are increasing and the equality of education is weakening. A large part of young adults are excluded from education, jobs and the society as a whole.
This fall I have visited several vocational schools all over Finland. In Kouvola, for example, 250 young adults and 60 mature students are under threat from not having an education place next spring. This is equivalent to the amount of an entire secondary school not having a possibility for continuing studies in their own residential area. These young adults, who have a lower grades to begin with, will not be saved by increasing available places at the local high school.
The decrease in vocational expertise and consciously lessening the amount of skillful workforce will additionally weaken employment and our chances of pulling through the economic recession. Nobel prize winner professor Bengt Holmström recently stated that the enormous cuts from education by the current administration will particularly affect the future of our youth. They will, indeed, and the government’s empty rhetoric will not change it.
For a long time we have been able to declare Finland a country of educational equality. The government is consciously aiming to change this. Yet, investing in know-how and education will multiply in value, whereas the costs of marginalizing our youth is increasingly expensive.
The government must change its direction while it is still possible. In this day and age, hope and faith in future is particularly important for our youth.
First published on Outi’s blog and translated by Leena Maria Cotter