More Teachers Needed For Immigrants

Helsingin Sanomat, June 15, 2007

About 650 new teachers will be needed by 2012 to meet the needs of school pupils with immigrant backgrounds.

The estimates by a working group at the Ministry of Education are based on projections for the increase in the number of pupils who speak a foreign language at home, as well as on the prospect of large numbers of teachers retiring, and the sizes of classes.

The calculations also assume that immigration will continue to grow at the same rate that it has in recent years.

At the end of last year 2.3 per cent of the population of Finland were citizens of another country—122,000 individuals. The number of residents with an immigrant background was greater.

There are also to be efforts to encourage immigrant children to continue beyond comprehensive school, into vocational school or upper-level secondary school.

Evaluating the need for more teachers was not easy, because many different kinds of groups of teachers take part in the education of people with immigrant backgrounds, and the statistics on them are inadequate. There is considerable variation in the teachers’ educational backgrounds, and the criteria for competence have not always been defined.

The greatest estimated need for teachers is in integration training, in preparatory classes for basic education, and in the teaching of the immigrants’ mother tongues.

The working group notes that the teacher shortage can be alleviated by increasing teachers’ training, improving opportunities for those with immigrant backgrounds to become teachers, and by increasing possibilities to supplement teaching degrees earned abroad.

The working group has not made any separate estimates on how many teachers with immigrant backgrounds would be needed, but the group wants measures to improve the possibilities of students with immigrant backgrounds to be accepted into teacher training.

The training programme for class teachers at the University of Helsinki has had an immigrant quota for a few years now.

The Hämeenlinna Teachers’ College also organises teachers’ training for immigrants.

The working group also feels that those who are currently teaching pupils with immigrant backgrounds need supplementary training, which should be offered to at least 1,500 people a year.

The working group submitted its recommendations to Minister of Education Sari Sarkomaa (Nat. Coalition Party) on Tuesday.

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