Youth Work Education in Finland

Tomi Kiilakoski

Finland has developed a well-established youth work education and training system which helps youth workers in different stages of their careers learn the values and practices of the youth work community. This report analyses the core values and principles of Finnish education and provides both an overview of the educational system and a detailed description of youth work education.

The publication is available free of charge here.


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The book claims that an understanding of Finnish youth work education requires knowledge of the tradition and practices of youth work as well as the main elements of Finnish educational thinking. Belief in education and equity, a commitment to continuous learning and a view of education as an integral part of the national narrative have created a uniquely Finnish model of education.

This book is aimed at an international audience interested in youth work and developing youth policies.

Publications (Finnish Youth Research Network) 149, 

ISSN 1799-9219
ISBN 978-952-372-000-8 (pdf) 

Internet Publications (Finnish Youth Research Network) 149
ISSN 1799-9227 (pdf)

This book offers an overview of Finnish youth work education to a wider international audience interested in promoting youth work education. Youth work education in Finland as part of the formal education system began in 1945, when the first course on the subject was established in an institution that is now part of Tampere University. Since then, the youth work education system has been expanding and currently covers all levels of the formal education system. Finland also has a well-developed non-formal education system. To understand this development, the basic features of Finnish youth work education are described. Based on the existing research literature, youth work education is located within the tradition of Finnish youth work and within the wider context of educational policy and tradition in Finland.

The book presents the basic features and core values of the Finnish pedagogical tradition, which manifest themselves in the way educational policy is organised in Finland. The Finnish youth work education system that ranges from vocational education to doctoral studies is described in detail. Finland has adopted a dual sector model in higher education, and most youth work students in higher education study at universities of applied sciences. Compared with many European countries, the Finnish youth work education system is well-financed and developed.

The book analyses the tradition of Finnish youth work using the theory of practice architectures. According to this perspective, youth work education aims at initiating the new youth workers to the features of the community and helping the more experienced ones to learn new skills. The books argues that to understand the way Finnish youth work education has developed, one must understand the wider context of how the field’s community of practice has developed. The cultural-discursive, material-economic and social-political arrangements of Finnish youth work are studied. The Finnish youth work community has successfully convinced the general public that working with youth requires a specialised body of knowledge and skills. Moreover, the value and worth of this work have received public acknowledgement. Recognising youth work means also recognising that youth workers are entitled to be supported in seeking education.

The development of Finnish youth work education has been influenced by the role of youth work in Finnish society and by the developments in the educational policy as a whole. The book analyses three features in greater depth. In Finland, the belief in education has created a favourable social attitude towards formal education and has enabled various professions to develop educational courses for their field. Educational policy has been based on national narratives. Youth work has managed to fit into these narratives and has thus been able to secure a place in the educational system. The expansion of education and the consequent credential inflation mean that youth work has needed to adapt to the developments outside its own field.