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The wide range of practices used by municipalities jeopardises the free nature of basic education

In decisions issued by Deputy-Ombudsman Pasi Pölönen on three complaints, the Deputy-Ombudsman stated that the free nature of basic education is unambiguous. Everyone has an equal right to receive education with no additional charges. 

The Parliamentary Ombudsman received several complaints in 2018 criticising school activities subject to payment. Case 1120/2018 concerned a school’s physical education day for which the activities were selected according to whether families had opted for a free-of-charge or paid alternative. In cases 2882/2018 and 5984/2018, families had been asked for money to cover the costs of optional physical education or a school field trip.

The Deputy-Ombudsman stated that the education provider must allocate sufficient resources for education to be arranged, including for out-of-school activities. In the event that pupils’ guardians participate in fund-raising voluntarily, the funds should be used for the benefit of all pupils.

The Deputy-Ombudsman also stated that organising field trips and physical education days in such a way that free-of-charge and paid alternatives are offered has the result of dividing the pupils into two groups: those who are able to pay to participate and those who are not. As the parties responsible for organising education, municipalities have an obligation to refrain from establishing practices that could de facto lead to an increase in inequality between children. 

Deputy-Ombudsman Pasi Pölönen’s decisions 1120/2018, 2882/2018 and 5984/2018 are available in full in Finnish on the Ombudsman’s website www.oikeusasiamies.fi

For further information on this case, contact Senior Legal Adviser Piatta Skottman-Kivelä, tel. +358 9 432 3347.