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Itakeskus - comprehensive school

Mirca Ognisanti

Abstract (English)

Young people in Helsinki who have completed their comprehensive school education but have not been admitted to an upper secondary school or to vocational training can get additional comprehensive school education of one extra school year. This education is provided in the so-called 10th forms. The 10th form classes are usually located in multicultural comprehensive schools.
After 10th class in Itäkeskus half of the students will go to upper secondary schools and they will achieve good results. The rest of the students will go to vocational schools. This Project is aimed at experimentation of special activities conducted by expert teachers who have special skills in the Finnish language teaching for immigrants. The 10th form is considered as a 1 year continuation of comprehensive studies for non Finnish speakers who can get minimum linguistic skills necessary for the upper secondary school. This activities has been set out in consideration of high level of drop out and underachievement among immigrant young students.


Abstract (italiano)

I giovani di Helsinki che hanno completato la loro formazione scolastica obbligatoria, ma che non sono stati ammessi ad una scuola superiore o a una formazione professionale possono ottenere una formazione supplementare di un anno scolastico integrativo. Questa formazione è chiamata “10th form”. I corsi del “10th form” si tengono solitamente in scuole multiculturali. Dopo questo anno la metà degli allievi si iscrive a una scuola superiore e raggiunge buoni risultati. Il resto degli allievi si indirizza verso le scuole professionali. Questo progetto è un esperimento costituito da attività speciali, condotte da insegnanti esperti che hanno un’abilità speciale nell'insegnare la lingua finlandese agli immigrati. La “10th form” è considerata come la continuazione degli studi di 1 anno per gli studenti che non sono di madrelingua finlandese e che in questo modo possono ottenere le abilità linguistiche minime necessarie per la scuola superiore-secondaria.

1.The practice

1.1 Description of the project

The objectives of the additional education are to improve opportunities for further education, to provide information on working life, education and training and to help pupils to choose a place in secondary higher education and a career. In Helsinki the following 10th forms are available: basic 10th classes in comprehensive schools, vocational emphasis 10th classes cooperating with vocational schools and 10th class for students including Finnish as a second language, preparing for upper secondary school, which is offered in Itäkeskus.

The Project is meant at improving and strengthening migrant student’s competence and performance in Finnish language, to develop students' learning and knowledge acquisition skills and to provide additional supportive courses for students of immigrant background in upper secondary schools.

The Project, according to the national rules on education, offers basic education that can include a voluntary, one-year pre-school education as well as a voluntary, one-year additional comprehensive school education, the 10th form. This additional education is addressed to immigrant pupils, who can improve their opportunities for further education during one extra school year.
The activities carried out by the Project consist of courses for immigrant who have completed their secondary lower education. Courses concern Finnish language teaching, which is anyhow always included into the content of other subjects. There are three courses in Math, English language, History, Biology/Geography (in a unique course), and one course in Chemistry, Psychics and Health and Hygiene in the curriculum.
The students have more personal counselling than they have usually at the comprehensive school. This means that teachers give a relevant attention to all the needs that can be showed by the student, in reason of his/her own personal history of migration, of his/her family social and cultural condition.

The 10th form was established in school year 2004 – 2005. The amount of students was 17, out of them 14 were entered into the studies which they had applied in joint application for entry, i.e. either vocational education or upper secondary education. 15 students attended school during year 2005 – 2006, out of which nearly all got into their first choice. In current school year 21 students are studying in the class.
The low level of drop out and of exit from the educational system testimonies the good result of this project. This shows how non-Finnish speakers can achieve good results at school if the school staff pays attention to their special needs.

1.2 Time, structure and steps of the project

The class was set up in the beginning of school year 2004-2005. In the beginning it was considered as permanent activity – depending of the coming results – but the organisational change in the Education Department complicated the idea of establishing the class. Since the project depend on the funding given by the Educational Department, the structural organisation of the 10th form depends on the choices made by the Department. This affected the possibility to establish, for the moment, a permanent activity.

1.3 Place and context

The educational system in Finland includes the pre-school education, comprehensive school, general and vocational secondary education, and higher education. The comprehensive school provides a nine-year educational programme with a voluntary 10th form for all school-age children, beginning at the age of seven. After completing their compulsory education students may go on to the upper secondary school, which provides three years of general education, or to vocational education lasting from two to six years. One out of two Finns has completed post-comprehensive school education and 23 per cent have a higher level qualification.
The students have either completed comprehensive school in Finland (their own country receive preparatory tuition (approximately one year) in Finnish comprehensive school. Some students have been in Finland over ten years, some one and half. The common problems for all students in academic language skills are limited learning skills, difficulties to find the fundamental knowledge of the text, some syntactic problems of Finnish language skills, and difficulties in writing academic texts.
(For details:, article of the Ministry of Labour about 19th form and attendance of upper secondary school by young immigrants).

1.4 Target

The target of this kind of supportive and additional education is mainly constituted by migrant or ethnic minorities students, aged 13-16, depending on their previous school past.

1.5 Methodology

The methodology is based on the idea of context based language tuition: it includes the tuition of theoretical subjects studied at the upper secondary school, Finnish language teaching integrated within the contexts of other subjects – i.e. Finnish in Maths/Maths in Finnish. Increasing students’ motivation is also embedded into the teaching methodology and arrangements: opportunities to take upper secondary schools’ courses in the evenings are possible for the students (for example three students are attaining the extended math course and two students Finnish as a mother tongue courses).
The intercultural approach is essential in the teaching and learning: the students practice the expression of their own opinions and ideas via given topics, mostly raised form the students’ discussions and questions, in order to explore their identity/ies and hence participation into the social discourse. Topics are changing from Iraq war to school uniforms. Discussion is always coordinated by the teacher and this is also a discussion practicing situation.

1.6 Authors, Financing and networks

Itäkeskus Upper Secondary School for Adults (Itäkeskuksen aikuislukio)
Kajaaninlinnantie 10
FIN.00900 Helsinki

Municipal funding: costs of the class are included into the yearly budget of the education department.

Itäkeskus upper secondary school works in cooperation with the study counsellor
Annantalo Arts Centre, during Finnish Language lessons in February (photography, video, music).

2. Hints for an evaluation

Deepening material