LIFELONG LEARNING

Finland needs a lifelong learning policy where the development of skills and competences is seen as a long-term investment and a source of well-being.

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What is it about?

The Finnish education system has for a long time been regarded as one of the best in the world and Finland’s success in the global economy has been based on the high level of expertise provided by it. Megatrends such as the development of technology, the transformation of work and aging population are challenging our current sources of livelihood and our education system. Current structures such as the boundaries between the areas of responsibility in public administration, the funding systems reflecting these and incentives do not sufficiently support flexible learning at different stages of life. 

What is needed is a systemic change to ensure that our learning capital is constantly at the highest possible level and our skills and knowledge help us respond to changes in our operating environment. Consideration must be given to the sufficient level of resources, how competence is produced, how the structures can be made effective and what kind of steering mechanisms are needed. 

Broad-based competence and education strengthen an individual’s well-being and competitive edge in the labour market and improve societal cohesion and the participation of citizens – the foundations of our welfare society. This way Finland will become a pioneer of lifelong learning. 

What do we do? 

The aim of Sitra’s Lifelong learning focus area is to support different actors in Finland in order to develop a cross-sectional policy for lifelong learning. The aim of this three-year project is to speed up the transition to a lifelong learning policy in which competence and work are seen as the building materials of well-being. The resources used to build competence are seen as a profitable investment in Finland’s competitiveness. 

Sitra’s role is to act as a neutral bridge-builder to make a lifelong learning policy possible. Such a policy would include an effective steering and funding system and an education system that guarantees a broad competence base and the capabilities required for lifelong learning to everyone in Finland. With this competence base, people will be able to use the opportunities available to build extensive, high-quality expertise flexibly at different stages and situations throughout life. 

Who is participating? 

The process of preparing the roadmap and the funding principles will be co-ordinated by key representatives from central government and the fields of employment and education. The participation of these representatives and their impact will be realised by different forums and the use of electronic working methods. The work will make use of relevant research carried out in Finland and abroad. The aim is to support political parties and those developing lifelong learning so that future challenges can be met. 

Sitra will provide an arena for joint discussion, support interaction between participants and carry out background preparation work to create a basis for the discussion. The results of the work carried out in the focus area will be openly available and can be used by everyone interested in the development of continuous learning. 

Where are we now?

Work on the Lifelong learning focus area began in spring 2018 by exploring the development proposals and development measures underway in the field of lifelong learning. The actual work in the focus area began in October 2018 with the preparation of a broad-based long-term aim for lifelong learning.

In October 2018, we published a report on the current flows of money in lifelong learning. The report provided the first comprehensive look at the flows of money in education and learning Finland.

In March 2019, we published a shared understanding of the main objectives of lifelong learning, the challenges to lifelong learning and the principles of its funding. The publication Towards lifelong learning summarised the shared understanding of 30 key interest groups on the topic.

The parties drawing up the Government Programme used the results of the work carried out by the representatives of the 30 interest groups in their planning. The reform of lifelong learning was included in the Government Programme and it is currently prepared by a parliamentary working group. Sitra participated in launching the group’s work and supports it by producing information on lifelong learning.

We brought up the views of Finnish adults on lifelong learning by arranging the Lifelong learning in Finland 2019 survey, to which responses were received from more than 2,000 Finns between 18 and 85 years of age. According to the results of the survey, people of all ages enjoy learning and a broad education is an asset as such.

In 2020, we published a memorandum on the viewpoint of unemployed people on opportunities for skills development entitled The unemployed perspective on lifelong learning – How should responsibility be shared? (in Finnish, summary in English).

We funded the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment’s report How to make competence visible? (in Finnish, abstract in English), which surveyed the structures and practices of skills identification recognition in Finland and eight reference countries.

We examined the regional impact of demographic trends on the education system in the publication For what population? (in Finnish, summary in English), which projected educational needs at all levels of education by estimating the numbers of new students up to 2040 in Finland and at the regional level. We also created an online service for accessing the data. The topic was discussed in webinars by educational level and in interviews with the Minister of Education.

We published a memorandum on the systemic management perspective on lifelong learning (in Finnish, summary in English). The publication also includes a comparison of the structures for steering lifelong learning in the other Nordic countries and highlights the need to manage lifelong learning as a cross-cutting issue in the long-term view towards systemic change.

In the publication At what cost? (in Finnish, summary in English), we discussed whether skills building is economically worthwhile and what the opportunity costs are.

We worked intensively on the regional lifelong learning collaboration in 2021, first in nine regions and subsequently in six new regions. The aim was to increase the change capabilities of the participating organisations in each region and accelerate the discovery of regional solutions supporting skills renewal of competencies for a sustainable and vibrant future.

Sitra funded eight projects that piloted a new skills system in different parts of Finland. They developed networked collaborative learning, skills renewal and innovation.

With the aim of inspiring Finns of working age to recognise their own skills, we organised a two-week Reveal Your Skills campaign in August–September 2021 in co-operation with over 350 partners. During the campaign, various companies, public sector entities, associations and educational institutions produced a wide-ranging programme for their customers, employees, students, partners and members.

As a follow-up to the report “For what population?”, we produced a publication and online service on the Regional mobility of professionals (in Finnish, summary in English) and discussed examples of solutions from four different regions in the memorandum Local sufficiency of professionals (in Finnish, summary in English).

At the end of 2021, we published Sitra’s seven recommendations for promoting lifelong learning in Finland.

Sitra’s Lifelong learning project, including the facilitation of its co-ordination network, will end in March 2022.

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