Education and development of competence 2021
Coronavirus pandemic reduced library visits

Publication date 13.1.2022 13.39 | Published in English on 28.3.2022 at 11.59
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The level of education of Finns is increasing slightly, but it is slow in relation to key reference countries. There are some worrying features in the development of young people’s skills as measured by the OECD as well as in adults’ participation in competence development. The closure of libraries due to the coronavirus pandemic reduced physical visits by 20 per cent. After a long period of decline, RDI investments have taken an upward turn. The PISA tests were postponed by one year, so there are no new test results.

Finns’ level of education is slightly increasing, but there are notable gender differences

Share of post-primary, vocationally-oriented (vocational, secondary and tertiary) and higher education graduates. (Source: Finnish National Agency for Education)

Finland’s current situation and recent development

The share of those without upper secondary qualifications in the population is around 15 per cent. The share of people with a master’s or bachelor’s degree is a little under 30 per cent.

Although the level of education of Finns is increasing slightly, the development in other key reference countries is faster.

The Government has set the target that at least 50 per cent of the young age groups would complete a higher education degree.

While the number of those without upper secondary qualifications has decreased, around 15 per cent of each youth age group continues to only have completed basic education. There is still a growing gap between the level of education of men and women.

(Source: Education Statistics Finland)

Adults are active in completing training and education, although participation is decreasing slightly

Participation in adult education. (Source: Statistics Finland)

Finland’s current situation

More than 50 per cent of Finns aged 25–64 participate in formal or non-formal education every year. The Finnish participation rate is clearly higher than the average in EU Member States. In Finland, the share of those participating in continuous learning has remained at the level of 55 per cent since 2007, while the EU average has steadily risen.

In the adult population, competence development accumulates. The unemployed, those without a post-primary qualification and over 55-year-olds participate clearly less than the employed, highly educated, professional and managerial employees and those aged 25–34.

Finland’s recent development

The participation rate in adult education has remained relatively stable for three decades. The structure of participation by different population groups has also been very similar for a long time.

One of the objectives of the Parliamentary policy approaches for reforming continuous learning is to give everyone an opportunity to renew their competence proactively to enable development at work, employment in new tasks and career advancement, and to increase equality of participation. The target is monitored by using an adult education participation indicator where the target level is set at 60 per cent. The aim is to achieve this goal by increasing the participation of the unemployed and those outside labour force, those with a low income, entrepreneurs, people over 55 years of age and foreign-language speakers.

Other observations related to the indicator

The European Commission has decided that from 2022 onwards the participation of persons in adult education and training during the last 12 months will be measured as part of the Labour Force Survey. From 2023 onwards, the indicator data will be updated every two years.

A significant part of learning during one’s working life takes place at the workplace and as part of one’s work. The indicator for participation in adult education and training does not take into account such competence development at work.

Young people’s competence remains high in an international comparison, but the trend is worrying

Literacy in line with competence. (Source: OECD, PISA 2018 Results, Volume I)

Literacy has traditionally been strong in Finland. Monitoring trends in literacy is important as this is an underlying factor in media literacy and multiliteracy, which are of increasing importance. Media literacy and multiliteracy are concerned with the ability to find out, process and interpret information produced in different ways and for different purposes, and to use this as the basis for forming an overall idea of societal issues, such as sustainable development.

There has been a significant slump in the literacy of Finnish youths. The international PISA comparison has examined the reading literacy of 15-year-olds in the countries and regions participating in the assessment. Finland has ranked among the top countries. From 2000 to 2006, Finnish youths scored high in reading literacy, at 547–543 points, while the average score of the OECD countries was 500 with a standard deviation of 100. In 2018, the literacy scores of Finnish youths decreased to 520 points. In all countries participating in the PISA study, girls succeed better in reading literacy than boys. In Finland, the difference in the competence of girls and boys is the biggest in all OECD countries. Even though regional differences in Finland have traditionally been minor, the Helsinki region fared better than other regions in the most recent study.

Finland's success in PISA studies, 2000–2018. (Source: OECD, PISA 2018 Results, Volume I)

The PISA study has determined different proficiency levels for reading literacy, of which level 2 is considered necessary for being able to participate in today's society. In Finland, the share of pupils remaining below level 2 has increased from 7 per cent to 11 per cent. At the same time, the share of readers at the highest end of the scale (over level 5) has decreased from 18.5 per cent to 13.7 per cent. 

Finland's development in recent years

According to the OECD PISA study, the share of those scoring highest and lowest is equal among Finnish young people. On average, mathematical skills are poorer than literacy or skills in natural sciences.

By now, the competence of young people has been declining for a long time in the international comparison. The share of those with the poorest skills has particularly been increasing. Competence levels have decreased in all measured areas of competence.

The coronavirus pandemic reduced library visits due to restrictions

Library visits; physical and electronic loans. (Source: Finland’s library statistics)

The library institution plays an important role in the context of societal knowledge and skills as it reaches all population groups. Library services are particularly important for those outside of education and working life as they are at a greater risk of being excluded from developing and changing knowledge and competence needs compared to other groups. Library visits and the borrowing of library materials reflect the population's willingness to educate themselves and become aware of society as well as the population’s desire to implement active citizenship.

Finland’s current situation

Library visits are either physical visits or online visits.

In 2020, people made 35.3 million physical visits and 50 million online visits to libraries. Physical visits decreased by about 20 per cent from the previous year, which was due to the coronavirus pandemic. After the pandemic began, public libraries were fully closed for a month and a half, and even after that the availability of library services was restricted regionally and locally according to the pandemic situation. The number of online visits increased by approximately three million from the previous year. The borrowing of books remained at the previous year’s level (approx. 70 million borrowed items).

The use of libraries in Finland ranks among the top of the world. In 2018, the average number of physical library visits was 9.1. visits/inhabitant; the corresponding rates were 6.5 in Denmark, 6.2 in Sweden and 4.7 in Norway. The average number of physical library loans was 12 loans/inhabitant; the corresponding numbers were 5 in Denmark, 6 in Sweden and 5 in Norway.  In 2018, 36 per cent of Finns, 30 per cent of Danes and 26 per cent of Swedes could be considered active library users.

No quantitative targets have been set for the use of libraries. Instead, the targets of libraries are related to cultural policy objectives such as managing the infrastructure of the library institution, the availability of library services and the free use of public libraries.

Finland’s recent development

Borrowing and physical visits to libraries increased up until 2004 after which they both started to decline. This change is related to the development of information society, where information acquisition and access channels have become more diverse. Nonetheless, Finland’s library visit and borrowing rates continue to be among the highest in the world.

In the peak year of 2004 for physical visits to libraries, there were nearly 67 million visits to the country's libraries. From 2005 onwards, physical visits started to decline and then stabilise at around 50 million visits until increasing in 2019.

In previous years, the dwindling of physical visits has been compensated for by online visits to libraries, which have increased at the same time. Above all, this development is a result of digitalisation. Online services have evolved, which has moved some library services online. There was a dramatic increase in online visits in the first years of compiling statistics on the topic. The statistical guidelines for online visits were specified from 2014 onwards, which can be seen as a decrease in online visits. Technical changes in information systems were also made in the following years. As of 2017, the data are again comparable. Online visits have been increasing since 2018.

(Source: Finnish Public Libraries Statistics)

RDI investments to GDP ratio increased slightly

Share of research and development expenditure of gross domestic product. (Source: Statistics Finland)

Finland’s current situation

The total expenditure on research and development has increased moderately over the past few years

According to Statistics Finland, research and development expenditure was EUR 6.9 million in 2020. The expenditure increased by EUR 218 million from the previous year, representing a growth of 3.2 per cent. The growth only concerned companies, which increased their research and development expenditure by 5.4 per cent. In higher education institutions, the research expenditure remained at the 2019 level, while in the public sector it decreased by 2.8 per cent. Overall, the growth rate of research expenditure was one percentage point slower than in the previous year.

The National Roadmap for Research, Development and Innovation (RDI Roadmap) has set an aim to increase RDI intensity and the target level of RDI activities.  The aim is for Finland to remain at the forefront of both the production of new knowledge and the development and application of technology. The RDI roadmap has been prepared to promote the achievement of this goal and the resulting sustainable growth, as well as to create an operating environment that encourages both Finnish and foreign companies to invest in RDI activities in Finland.

Finland’s recent development

There was a significant decline in public and private investments in research and development activities during the first half of the 2010s. In recent years, R&D investments have started growing moderately in companies, the higher education sector and the public sector alike. In the present decade, a decline in investments in research and development activities has been particularly significant in the private sector. The relative share of the private sector in R&D investments has not returned to the level at which it was at the beginning of the decade.  

(Source: Statistics Finland.)