Finnish Schools Get Into Politics

Schools in Finland are beginning to introduce educational material dealing with the political life of the nation. A study by the University of Turku indicates most Finns are politically ignorant and schools are stepping into the breach by engaging students in political issues both on a national and local level. This autumn, all 9th-graders in Finland have been given a teaching packet entitled “Vastuut(ON) which was developed by the Ministries of Justice and Education. The material is presented in the form of a youth magazine.

The magazine focuses intently on municipal decision making and is intended to support teachers who might be wary of plunging into political discussions. There is a sense among Finnish educators that during the sixties left wing materials came into schools which eventually resulted in a backlash from more conservative people. They believe the pendulum has swung the other way and a middle ground approach to politics is now accepted by the population. Najat Quakrim-Solivio, who helped develop the materials notes: “the most difficult task is to tach what the differences are between the various political parties. Today, even the websites of all parties contain exactly the same issues.”

During the past ten years, a project entitled: “The Voice of the Young” allows young people to participate in school decision-making and even participate at meetings called by the mayor.