Education is a key to empowerment

It is important for young people to complete upper secondary education in order to be able to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by today's society. This applies not least to job opportunities. One of the Government's most important challenges is that all pupils complete both compulsory school and upper secondary school with pass grades.

Schools must take a clear stance in favour of human rights and the democratic values that form the basis of our society. Schools must be felt to be a secure environment for children and young people, in which everyone is given equal opportunities.

Together with the formal education system, non-formal education and informal learning are important components of lifelong learning. Much knowledge and skill that can have great significance for future life choices and opportunities is gathered via liberal adult education and clubs, and in working life. International exchanges, voluntary activities and international project work are also important instruments of non-formal education and informal learning for young people.

The Government's most important measures in the area are outlined below.

The new Education Act

The new Education Act covers education from preschool to adult education. The Act is a coherent legislative act to provide a foundation for knowledge, choice and security in all forms of education and other activities covered by the Education Act. The Act entered into force on 1 July 2011.

The upper secondary school reform

The first pupils to enter the new upper secondary school system began in autumn 2011. Two new diplomas have been introduced: a higher education preparatory diploma and a vocational diploma. On vocational programmes, more time is devoted to programme-specific and vocational subjects to better prepare pupils for working life. The higher education preparatory programmes have also been amended to better prepare pupils for future higher education studies. Upper secondary apprenticeship education in cooperation with labour market actors was also introduced.

In connection with the upper secondary school reform, the eligibility requirements for upper secondary school were also tightened to create better conditions for pupils to successfully complete their education.

Pupils who are not eligible for the national programmes will be offered special study programmes in the form of five introductory programmes that replace the current individual programmes.

Security, school health and welfare services, and gender equality

One prerequisite for pupils to be able to benefit from lessons and the right to education is that they are well and happy and feel seen, secure and appreciated. The Government has initiated a number of measures in this area, including a gender equality initiative in schools and measures to strengthen the work of schools in the area of discrimination and harassment. To make it possible to enhance school health and welfare services, the Government has introduced temporary support in the form of a targeted government grant to organisations responsible for schools for the period 2012-2015.