Finland has demonstrated its commitment to EE and education for sustainable development (ESD) at the local, regional, and national levels, with a number of associations, ministries, universities, and non-profits playing important roles. By including sustainability among key competencies required in K-12 education, Finland is paving the way for nationwide access to EE.
Policy & Practice
Sustainable development is a cross-curricular theme in the national core curriculum for basic education and for upper secondary education, so it must be included in the local curriculum work in the common and optional subjects and in common events, and it must be apparent in the school’s operational culture. Sustainable development is also listed as a key component of upper secondary vocational qualifications. The Finnish Government oversees the national objectives for education, the time allocation for compulsory and optional subjects in basic and general upper secondary education, and the common core subjects and their scope in vocational education and training (Basic Education Act, General Upper Secondary Schools Act, and Vocational Education and Training Decree).
EE in K-12 Education
“Participation, involvement and building a sustainable future” is one of the transversal competencies that all K-12 subjects must promote. The criteria under this competency include:
- The pupils understand the significance of protecting the environment through their personal relationship with nature.
- They are guided to understand the significance of their choices, way of living and actions not only to themselves but also to their local environment, society and nature.
- The pupils develop capabilities for evaluating both their own and their communities' and society's operating methods and structures and for changing them so that they contribute to a sustainable future.
Read more about the national core curriculum for basic education (2014) here.
There are a number of EE professional development opportunities available through Finnish universities and professional associations.
At the university level, SYKLI Environmental School of Finland, a vocational college focused on the environment, offers competence-based qualifications in EE. The University of Oulu’s Department of Education also offers core studies in EE and a specialization in EE for teacher training students.
Nonprofits also promote access to valuable resources and news for EE professionals. FEE Finland, the Association for EE in Finland, publishes an online EE magazine as well as an annual hard-copy special edition in collaboration with various organizations. Furthermore, the MAPPA national resource bank, funded by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment and managed by The Finnish Association of Nature and Environment Schools, provides a searchable online platform for anyone to upload and use EE materials and how-to-do tips (see the English promotional flier here).
Finally, the national outdoor learning conference, Ulos-Ut-Out, is organized once every three years in collaboration with organizations across the fields of EE, outdoor education, and experiential learning. The event offers lectures, workshops, and roundtables for professionals across multiple disciplines.
In Finland, there are two associations operating at the national level. First, the Association for EE in Finland (Suomen Ympäristökasvatuksen Seura, FEE Finland) is a member organization of FEE, and has played an important role in promoting EE in Finland in the political sphere as well as in the field. FEE Finland also hosts EE Round Tables, bringing together all organizations across Finland that are engaged in EE. Second, the Association of Nature Schools and Environmental Schools (Luonto- ja ympäristökoulujen liitto, LYKKY) represents outdoor education centers and their staff, and promotes EE at the national level. LYKKY also hosts the LYKE-Network, connecting all actors in the field that offer EE services to schools, families, and youth groups.
Furthermore, there are multiple associations operating at regional levels within Finland, including one that covers the southern part of the country and 12 regional EE networks throughout Finland that organize regional meetings, conferences, and other collaborations.
EE in National Government
Finland’s national government has incorporated EE through multiple approaches. Under the supervision of the Ministry of the Environment, there are 15 centers for economic development, transport and the environment (ELY Centres). Regional EE coordination is one of the ELY Centres’ many roles, and one center plays the coordinating role for EE at the national level (for now until 2020). Furthermore, EE and sustainability are included in the job descriptions of nominated officers at the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Education and Culture, and at the National Board of Education, ensuring the EE and ESD are core values in these government institutions.
National EE Campaigns and Funding
Both the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Education and Culture subsidize organizations that offer EE services for schools and communities. Furthermore, the regional ELY Centres offer project-based funding for EE, and the Board of Education offers support for in-service teacher training initiatives and projects that expand learning environments for schools (including in virtual and nature environments).