Education International
Education International

Finland: Commitment to education and teachers vital

published 30 January 2014 updated 12 February 2014

Strong education unions are crucial to ensure a good status for teachers and to provide quality education for all. That was reaffirmed by the Opetusalan Ammattijärjestö(OAJ) at the EDUCA Fair in Helsinki from 23-25 January. The largest education event in Finland, it was attended by 15,000 participants, 150 high level speakers, and hosted 300 exhibition stands. OAJ, a national affiliate of EI celebrated its 40th anniversary during the fair.

Teacher unionism in Finland has a 120-year-old history and OAJ was established as the first step in the process towards a single teachers’ union. The union now has 122,000 members covering 95 per cent of all Finnish teachers, from early childhood education to higher and adult education.

“OAJ’s history and status in Finnish education show how important it is that teachers’ unions merged into one strong union,”OAJ President Olli Luukkainen said.

“Today we can use all our power and resources to safeguard teachers’ interests and education. We can use all our energy to work towards quality education for all. High quality early childhood education, basic education, secondary education, vocational education, university education and adult education are keys to success and a better, equal and peaceful society. Success does not come without a strong commitment. We need a very strong and effective teacher family to keep education at the top of the political agenda.”

Presidential message: help teachers

That commitment was emphasised in a message from Sauli Niinistö, President of the Republic of Finland, to teachers at the EDUCA Fair. “It is important that we ask ourselves what we can do for you… Children spend long days in school, so every meeting with a teacher and every teacher action, as well as every child performance, are very important.”

During the event, OAJ also launched a so-called “FUTURE machine” webpage. Through this public webpage, everyone can express their views about the future of education.

Video about the “FUTURE machine” webpage:

EI: Social dialogue beneficial

“Like our Finnish colleagues, we firmly believe that the quality of the relationships between teachers and other members of the education community and between education unions and public authorities are key factors if we are to achieve universal access to quality education,” EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen said.

“This has also been stressed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, noting that countries obtaining the best results to the Programme for International Student Assessment’s tests are mostly countries where the social dialogue in the education sector is alive and well.”