More international schools needed in Helsinki
Foreign families are demanding better education for their children
The EU Chemical Authority will be set up in Helsinki in two years' time. It will have approximately 400 workers who are mainly of foreign origin and have school-aged children.
The decision to situate the EU Chemical Authority has obliged Helsinki and its neighbouring cities to think about how the schooling arrangements of these families will be organised. "There has to be a good selection", says the head of international relations Eeva Penttilä, from the City of Helsinki's Education Department.
"It's also a part of the city marketing to ensure that the educational services are in good condition. As we know, bad news travel fast. International corporations have the tendency to make enquiries of conditions in different countries and spead the word among foreign workers.
The schooling of immigrant children is well-organised in Finland, according to Penttilä. Nevertheless, the situation is very different with international families who come to work here. The general consensus is "let them take care of their children's education", and international schooling is considered as a problem of the elite.
Penttilä offers the reminder that Finland's high marks in the OECD's Programme for international Student Assessment (PISA) have resulted in a good reputation - and in high expectations.
There is also an increasing number of Finnish families who work and live abroad. "There's an important group of Finnish children who have started their schooling elsewhere, return to Finland, and possibly move abroad again."
Naturally there are international and language immersion schools in the metropolitan area, but Penttilä thinks the cities of this region should further co-operate in the matters concerning education, as a foreigner does not care about the municipal borders and school catchment areas. "The areas of responsibilities and the range of schools should be considered together."
Most of the international and language immersion schools follow the Finnish curriculum. The teaching can be conducted solely in a foreign language or some subjects can be taught in Finnish. Most students of international schools are tested and selected based on the results.
The most international school in the metropolitan region is the International School of Helsinki in Selkämerenkatu. An international curriculum is followed and available in Kulosaari Secondary School and the English School. The International Baccalaureate curriculum is on offer in Helsingin Suomalainen Yhteiskoulu and Ressu Comprehensive School embarked on the IB-programme this autumn.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Growing number of international schools emerging in Finnish cities (15.2.2005)
Teachers of Espoo International School represent seven nationalities (15.2.2005)
Language immersion from the 1980s (15.2.2005)
At Helsinki's Finnish-Russian School they also teach English (18.10.2004)