Children’s arts and culture in Finland
The promotion of children’s arts and culture is a priority for the Ministry of Education and Culture.
The Ministry of Education and Culture actively promotes children’s arts and culture as it seeks to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and children’s rights to access art and culture in accordance with the Finnish Constitution. The Ministry supports high-quality arts and culture work for children that promotes creativity whilst being child-centred, professional, accessible and diverse. The Ministry aims to make art and culture a permanent part of children’s lives through various organisations and institutions. It sponsors 26 regional children’s arts centres, the Association of Finnish Children’s Cultural Centres, and the Finnish Association for basic education in the arts.
Basic education in the arts
Basic education in the arts is extracurricular arts education provided after-hours in local art schools. It is goal-oriented, bound to the national curriculum, and taught by trained professional practitioners. Basic education in the arts is widely accessible around Finland and has a low threshold to access. Currently, there are 128,000 students accessing basic education in the arts in 267 (86%) of Finnish municipalities. Basic education in the arts is regulated by the Act and Decree on Basic Education in the Arts, the National Core Curriculum for Basic Education in the Arts by the Finnish National Agency for Education, and the curriculum approved by education providers.
Arts education at schools
Culture can form part of everyday work at school, within lessons, as a hobby between lessons, or after school. Nearly all the children and youth can be reached via schools as compulsory education is generally completed in publicly funded schools in Finland. Compulsory education usually begins the year when a child turns seven years and ends when the child has completed the required syllabus or when the child has been at school for ten years.
In Finland, the school has a national curriculum that binds every school in grades 1–9. The new curriculum adopted in 2016 offers many opportunities for cooperation between schools and children’s culture centres. The curriculum emphasises phenomenon-based learning where the focus is on understanding a topic or concept in a holistic approach instead of instruction along strict subject boundaries.
Art and culture clubs at schools
Providing art and culture clubs at schools is one way of implementing the Finnish government’s key project concerning access to children’s culture. The ambition of this key project is to give children and youth an equal opportunity to familiarise themselves with art and culture. Supervised art and culture activities, arranged at schools, boosting the children and youths’ creative skills, cultural competence, and learning conditions. The school premises must be given to clubs for children and adolescents free of charge, which opens up new opportunities for clubs, art, and cultural activities and increases cooperation which supports education. The project grants subsidies which enable to start the activities free of charge or with a very reasonable charge.
The Association of Finnish Children’s Cultural Centers promotes cultural education systematically, with the help of cultural education plans and school clubs. Along with cultural education plans, school clubs for art and culture are national development targets. Thanks to them, cultural education reaches all pupils and is equal, systematic, and many-sided.
The clubs are arranged according to the wishes voiced by children in a national or local inquiry. Children must also have an influence on how the clubs are arranged. The Ministry of Education and Culture carried out two national inquiries for school children, asking about their interest in engaging in various art forms in school clubs. The club activities have been developed according to the response to the inquiries.
Cultural Education Plans
In recent years, cultural education at schools has become goal-oriented and organised in the geographical areas of the cultural centres, first and foremost thanks to the Cultural Education Plans. A cultural education plan is a plan drafted by a municipality or region on how culture, art, and cultural heritage education shall be carried out as part of general education in the municipality or region. The plan is based on the curriculum. At the same time, it guarantees every pupil the same opportunity to attend this education. The ambition is to give all the pupils at preschools and comprehensive schools access to culture and art every year. Cultural education binds together different subjects and penetrates all instruction in addition to art and craft subjects. These plans take into account each region’s own cultural heritage and offerings.
Several cultural centres for children have had a decisive influence on the creation and implementation of these plans in their respective regions. From the very beginning, a Cultural Education Plan is put into action in collaboration between schools and actors in the culture and art sectors. The education and culture sectors pledge to comply with the common plan together with art institutions, such as libraries, museums, and theatres. This cooperation guarantees the children and youth in the municipality or region equal access to local culture in a multifaceted way.
The culture contact persons are a vital link between schools and the cultural centres for children. These culture contact persons, appointed by kindergartens and schools, inform the staff at their workplaces about the offering of children’s culture, handle the registrations to attend, give feedback to event organisers, and participate in the programme planning from the perspective of an expert in upbringing issues. Culture contact persons are needed in drafting the cultural education plans, for instance. They have an important role in developing the plan and in managing the practical arrangements.
Photo: children’s art festival Hippalot. Photographer: Anu Pynnönen