Education level of the population

The level of education among immigrants is hard to compare to that of the entire population because the degrees of many people with a foreign background do not exist in the Finnish register of degrees. Information about the population’s educational structure includes each person’s highest degree acquired in Finland and the degrees acquired abroad, which have been specifically exported to the register. The majority of degrees acquired abroad and registered in Finland are university degrees.

On the other hand, the educational structure of the children of immigrants, i.e. second generation Finns with a foreign background, can be reviewed because they were born in Finland and have gone through the Finnish educational system. The number of second generation Finns among the population remains very low, especially among the older age groups; however, the number is rapidly rising.

Among the younger age groups, the level of education of the second generation population with a foreign background is behind other Helsinki residents. At the end of 2016, while only 62% of the second generation population aged 20–24 had acquired a degree following comprehensive education, the corresponding figure was 87% for persons in the same age with a Finnish background. Of the second generation population aged 25–64, 76% had a degree following comprehensive education at the end of 2016, whereas the corresponding figure was 89% for those with a Finnish background.

Early childhood education

Children with a foreign background often benefit from early childhood education because learning a domestic language before school, especially, improves school success. In early 2017, 18% (7,062) of all Helsinki residents aged 1–6 were foreign language-speakers. With regard to these foreign language-speaking children, in 20% of cases both the child and the parents were born abroad, in 73% of cases the parents were born abroad but the child was born in Finland, and in other cases, at least one of the parents was born in Finland.

Before the age of 3, fewer foreign language-speaking children residing in Helsinki took part in early childhood education than domestic language-speaking children. However, after the age of 3 the numbers were the same. At the end of 2017, 33% of foreign language-speaking children aged 1–2 took part in municipal or private early childhood education, whilst the same figure among domestic language-speakers was 51%.  At the age of 3–6, 88% of foreign language-speakers and 90% of domestic language-speakers took part in early childhood education. There are no significant differences in the level of participation between the major language groups.

Comprehensive education

In Helsinki, comprehensive education is provided by the City of Helsinki, the state and private operators. According to the population register’s statistics on mother tongues, in the autumn of 2017 there were a total of 9,780 persons in comprehensive education whose mother tongue was not Finnish, Swedish or Sami. The percentage of all students was 19%, with the highest percentage in state-run comprehensive schools and city-run Finnish language comprehensive schools.

If the student’s mother tongue is not Finnish, Swedish or Sami or if the student has a multilingual background, the student can study Finnish or Swedish as a second language (F2, S2). In autumn 2017, there were a total of 9,470 students with Finnish as a second language, or 20% of all students, disregarding the students of Helsinki’s Swedish language schools. The most F2 students were found in city-run Finnish language comprehensive schools, but the percentage has risen in the 2010s at the fastest rate in private schools.

92% of Helsinki residents who had finished comprehensive school in 2015 were studying towards a degree and, in the autumn of the same year, 3% were taking courses not leading to a degree. 82% of foreign language-speakers who had finished comprehensive school continued directly with studies leading to a degree; 7% sought other forms of education. The percentage of foreign language-speakers seeking further education has risen in recent years. As recently as 2010, only 63% continued with education leading to a degree directly after comprehensive school.

Upper secondary education and university education

In autumn 2016, there were 1,750 foreign language-speaking upper secondary school students taking part in youth education in Helsinki and 450 taking part in adult education. In autumn 2016, there were more than 5,000 foreign language students studying towards a vocational basic degree and 1,140 foreign language students studying towards a professional or specialist degree. In autumn 2016, there were fewer than 3,000 foreign language students studying in polytechnic universities and 4,300 foreign language university students.

Of Helsinki residents aged 16–18, 87% were either in a upper secondary school or vocational school in autumn 2016. Of students aged 16–18 whose mother tongue is not Finnish or Swedish, 68% were upper secondary school students. Compared to domestic language-speakers, a lower number of them were in upper secondary schools but a higher number of them were in vocational schools. Domestic language-speaking youth took upper secondary education less than the national average but foreign language-speaking youth took upper secondary education more than the national average. 

The number of foreign language youth in upper secondary education drastically increased between 2010–2016. In 2010, only approximately every other foreign language-speaker aged 16–18 was receiving upper secondary education.

43% of Helsinki residents aged 20–24 were taking university courses in autumn 2015. 18% were studying towards a polytechnic university degree and 25% were studying towards a university degree. 27% of foreign language-speakers aged 20–24 were studying at the university level, less than 16% were studying in a polytechnic university and 11% were studying in a university. Foreign language-speaking Helsinki residents are less likely to study at the university level than the national average (35%). The percentage of university students aged 20–24 has dropped in the last ten years, whilst among the foreign language-speakers, the number has slightly risen.