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The Future Of Lifelong Learning In Finland

In the end of the day, who pays?

I think that the different players in the field of education share a common understanding of what we need to do in Finland. We just need to figure out how to finance this.

During 2007 and 2008 there was a national working group developing adult education and lifelong learning in Finland. At that time I was working as the secretary general of the University Continuing Education Network in Finland, and as such I was part of that working group. We launched a new kind of a financial model for lifelong learning purposes, a certificate programme which would partly be funded by the government and partly by the participants. It was meant to be a new financial model in the field of university continuing education, but we will see how this will go on.

The “funding model” part of this new system is easily forgotten by the government, and after the huge reform universities are not ready to fund this kind of “more reasonably priced” education by themselves. Especially in order to be able to offer groups that are not able to pay the normally high CE fees access to education, for example for artists wanting to be entrepreneurs or some public sector operators like teachers.

One possibility, which demands very modern thinking inside universities, is that the universities take more responsibility for lifelong learning in society by reorganizing the funding inside and earmarking a smaller amount of its budget towards those who are not studying and do not need degree education.

I would also like to see the individuals take more financial responsibility of their lifelong learning, but we are not there yet.

As a small country, Finland operates more “like a club” than a country. When you need to develop something, you call somebody who knows somebody who can do something. Also in this issue, I am convinced that we will find a solution, sooner or later, nationally and in individual universities.

Vouchers or other similar demand-oriented instruments

One possibility currently promoted by the labour market organizations is to introduce higher education vouchers. This, according to many, would change the system from our current supplier-oriented model to a individual-friendly demand-oriented one.

I like the idea of not putting everybody through the same pipeline of education by default as it would leave the individual the power to choose their educational path through spending the vouchers. What worries me is that how can we ensure sustainable, high quality education like we have now, if individuals are left to make their own choices.

At Aalto University we are currently forming our model and means of lifelong learning. Hopefully, when it is time for my next post, we have more concrete plans so that I can write more about how we in Aalto plan to answer to the professional development needs of our surrounding society.

This was Part 3 of Myllymäki’s three-part series. To see the first two articles, see Finland’s Education Culture and Reform (1) and Why The Finnish System Needs Rethinking (2).

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