There are wide variations to be found in the teaching Finnish as a second language in public schools. With many local governments suffering a shortage of funds, non-required subjects, including separate language instruction for children of immigrant background, have been targets for savings.
A survey made seven years ago showed that there were some municipalities where Finnish language classes for immigrants were not available in schools at all. According to the National Board of Education, the provision of classes in Finnish as a second language still varies widely from school to school. Only 15% of schools offer the same number of hours in the classroom for these lessons as they offer in Finnish to pupils for whom it is a first language.
"There are many schools where separate classes in Finnish as a second language are only one or two lessons a week. Especially during the early phase, that is too little as it is then that basic language skills are established," says Leena Nissilä of the National Board of Education.
The number of pupils needing these kinds of lessons in elementary school is growing at a rate of about one thousand a year. However, a minimum requirement for the number of lessons is not specified in the national curriculum. When times are financially tough for the municipalities that pay for schooling, non-required subjects are the first to come under threat.