Youth Barometer 2017. Roads to Learning
Elina Pekkarinen & Sami Myllyniemi (eds)
In Finnish: Opin polut ja pientareet. Nuorisobarometri 2017
The youth barometer, which has been carried out every year since 1994, is a publication series that studies the values, well-being and everyday life of young people aged 15–29 who live in Finland. The Youth Barometer 2017 is based on 1,902 phone interviews. This time the theme is learning and education. The barometer also looks into the young people’s financial situation, trust and feeling of belonging in the Finnish society and satisfaction with life.
For the majority of young people, the experiences gained from comprehensive school are quite positive: 82 per cent agree at least to some extent that they liked school and that the teachers were supportive and fair. A higher percentage feel that they easily made friends at school and that they were part of the school community. However, half of the young people feel that the opinions of comprehensive school pupils were not properly taken into account in developing their school. In other words, the schools seem to have been more successful in terms of community spirit and feeling of belonging than in the political aspects of participation.
Those young people who felt they were part of the school community and liked school, have done well in their studies later on. A functioning comprehensive school community acts as a factor protecting against the risk of ending up without qualifications. Experiences from comprehensive schools not only have an impact on subsequent educational paths but also more broadly on young people’s lives in general, because positive experiences are linked to young people being more satisfied with life.
Guidance counsellors are clearly the most important source of information on educational options after comprehensive school. The role of other teachers, parents and the media as a source of information is also significant. The most common age to decide what to study is 15 years, which means that matters related to career choices should already be emphasised at comprehensive school.
From the viewpoint of exclusion and equality, an important observation is that those who remain completely without education feel like they have only received a small amount of information on educational options. In particular boys who have ended up without education feel that they have hardly received any guidance from employment offices, guidance counsellors, teachers, hobby instructors, or from youth workers. Those who feel they have not been given information are precisely the ones who would need it the most.
According to the young people, clearly the most important reason for their choice of education is their interest in the subject. Selection criteria that are somewhat important are also ambition, employment and a good salary. Generally speaking, matters concerning content are emphasised in the decision-making of academically orientated young people, while more instrumental matters prevail among those who are vocationally orientated.
In the Youth Barometer’s interview material, 17% of all young people aged 15–29 say that at some point they have quit an educational programme that would have led to a qualification. By far the most common reason for not finishing the studies has been selecting the wrong field. Relationships between students, bullying and loneliness have had a relatively small impact. Among the young people who end up with no education after quitting their studies, lack of support concerning the studies stands out as a reason. From the viewpoint of equal opportunities in Finnish society, it is alarming that 10 per cent of young people consider lack of money and 7 per cent the long distance to school to have influenced their choice to quit, either to a considerable or reasonable extent.
Three out of four young people fully agree that the feedback received from learning is important. Almost as many consider all-round general education valuable as such. Receiving feedback is considered more important among girls, while among boys it is more typical to emphasise personal responsibility for learning. Upper secondary school students place more value on general education, while vocational school students find useful practical skills important.
There is strong appreciation for education: more than 9 out of 10 are of the opinion that education would considerably improve their chances of employment. Equally many want university education to remain free of charge, and more than three out of four respondents oppose the replacement of entrance exams with student selection based on certificates. Approximately two thirds of the young people support the idea of compulsory secondary education, i.e. upper secondary and vocational education.
The respondents were asked how much they feel they had learned about various things during comprehensive school and secondary education as well as outside school. The young people felt they had gained the most education on general knowledge and social and language skills at school, while they had gained least education on influence and financial skills. Outside school they felt they had gained the most education on social skills, tolerance and problem solving, while they had gained the least education on skills of influencing society. The respondents explain that they had learned much more about the enquired skills outside school than inside it. Among girls, the emphasis of learning is at school while among boys the emphasis of learning is outside school. Girls seem to have a more all-round and intrinsic relationship with their studies throughout education, while among boys the relationship is more practical and instrumental.