Educational 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 2018, while only 66 % of the second generation aged 20–24 had acquired a degree following comprehensive education, the corresponding figure was 88 % for persons in the same age with a Finnish background (Figure 1). Of the second generation population aged 25–64, 80 % had a degree following comprehensive education at the end of 2018, whereas the corresponding figure was 90 % 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. At the end of 2019, 22 % (8,441) of all Helsinki residents aged 1–6 were foreign language-speakers. With regard to these foreign language-speaking children, in 19 % of cases both the child and the parents were born abroad, in 74 % of the 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.

Fewer foreign language-speaking children residing in Helsinki take part in early childhood education than domestic language-speaking children. The difference by mother tongue is biggest before the age of three. At the end of 2019, 37 % 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 55 % (Figure 2).  At the age of 3–6, 93% of foreign language-speakers and 88 % 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. At the end of 2019 there were a total of 10,702 persons aged 7–15 in Helsinki whose mother tongue was not Finnish, Swedish or Sami. The percentage of all children in that age was 20 %. The highest percentage of foreign language students is 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 2019 there were a total of 9,058 students with Finnish as a second language, or 22 % 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.

93 % of Helsinki residents who had finished comprehensive school in 2018 were studying towards a degree and 4 % were taking courses not leading to a degree. Of foreign language-speakers who had finished comprehensive school, 85 % continued directly with studies leading to a degree; 8 % sought other forms of education. The percentage of foreign language-speakers seeking further education has mainly 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

There were 2,007 foreign language-speaking upper secondary school students taking part in youth education in Helsinki and 426 taking part in adult education in 2018. There were 7 860 foreign language students studying towards a vocational basic degree and 1,101 foreign language students studying towards a professional or specialist degree. In universities of applied sciences there were 3,100 foreign language students and in universities 4,200 foreign language students in 2018.

Of Helsinki residents aged 16–18, 88 % were either in a upper secondary school or vocational school in 2018 (Figure 3). Of students aged 16–18 whose mother tongue is not Finnish or Swedish, 70 % were upper secondary school students and 26 % vocational degree students. The number of foreign language youth in upper secondary education drastically increased between 2010–2018. In 2010, only approximately every other foreign language-speaker aged 16–18 was receiving upper secondary education.

Of all 20–24-year-olds in Helsinki 43 % were in tertiary education in 2017, while only 27 % of foreign language-speakers at the same age group were studying at the university level. 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.