Finland: Support for VET Students with special needs during the pandemic

The Finnish Government decided, on 30th of March, that restrictions on contact teaching at different levels of education would be valid until 13th of May.  However, this deadline was prolonged due to the pandemic situation and distance learning continues to be the national teaching methodology.  As it is foreseeable that the distance-learning format in VET (vocational education and training) to be continued after the summer, it became evident the necessity to reinforce the support for students with special needs. This work is being prepared by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

On 30 March the Finnish Government decided to restrict classroom-teaching until 13 May.  This deadline has been prolonged due to the pandemic situation and distance learning is the preferred form teaching, particularly in VET (vocational education and training).  It is expected that this methodology to be continued beyond this summer.

The Finnish National Agency for Education has been supporting teachers and learners during the distance teaching and learning. In all circumstances, the main purpose of teachers’ work is the guidance of students and teachers may use different kinds of digital tools and practices.

Currently, it is crucial to support the students who have fewer opportunities. Upper secondary students are better equipped to study independently than pupils in primary school. However, some secondary school students also lack certain learning skills, such as self-management skills or motivation to study. It has been particularly difficult for students belonging to different cultures and having foreign mother-tongue – or with migrant background – and for students who need special support to adapt to distance learning and independent studies.

In this context, particular attention has been paid to those students who are not able to study independently nor to use different kinds of digital environments or tools. In cases of exception, within the VET, it has been possible to arrange a limited number of teaching and guidance in the school premises during the COVID19 crisis, which has been conducted the way that is safe for both teachers and students, as there may be students belonging to a vulnerable group.

The VET Act establishes when organising teaching and guidance, particular attention was dedicated to students with special needs. This implies that the adequate support actions must be ensured also in distance teaching. According to the Finnish government policy, education providers have to ensure that student with difficult disabilities can continue their accommodation in student houses and teaching, care, dining and other services.

In Finland, dedicated guidance and support was arranged so that special education teachers, guidance counsellors and welfare officers were available virtually. Students with immigrant background had also the opportunity to get their schoolwork by post if they do not have access to digital tools or they are not used to work with computers as a part of their studies. Some education providers even have separate service points in their premises, where students that need support or tools for studies have been able pay a visit. 

In the future, extra effort will be required to bridge the skills and learning gaps that the emergency conditions created. This means additional investment in teaching, in guidance and in other support measures and the Finnish government is currently preparing working measures.

Source: European Commission

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