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A municipality must provide basic education for all children living there

Basic education has not been provided for all school-age children, because they are not domiciled in a municipality in Finland. This is in violation of the Constitution and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin points out.

The Deputy-Ombudsman became aware of the matter during the spring and she asked the Ministry of Education and Culture to explain what measures it intends to take to ensure education for all children resident in Finland.

In addition to so-called paperless children, the children of, e.g., people who have come to Finland to work or study or as asylum-seekers may have no municipality of domicile.

Under the relevant Act, a child has the right to receive cost-free basic education even though it does not live permanently in a municipality or the municipality is not its municipality of domicile

No need to amend the Act

The Ministry expressed the view in its report that the problems had been caused by an erroneous interpretation of the Act and the fact that being domiciled in a municipality is defined on the basis of the Local Government Act. It does not believe that there is a need to amend legislation.

The Ministry of Education and Culture informed the Deputy-Ombudsman that it had decided to make guidelines issued to municipalities and regional administrative authorities more effective in a way that would mean they interpreted the legislation correctly. In addition, the Ministry reported that it would arrange a round of training in various parts of the country in the early part of 2014.

Everyone is entitled to education

The obligation to provide basic education that the Basic Education Act imposes on municipalities is broad. The Act does not require that the child is permanently resident in a municipality or that the municipality should, under the Municipality of Residence Act, determine the child’s municipality of domicile.

Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin emphasises that everyone has a right under the Constitution to cost-free basis education. She points out in addition that the obligations enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are binding on Finland.

The Deputy-Ombudsman made an intervention concerning basic education also a year ago, when she asked the Ministry for a report on how basic education was being arranged for children who had arrived in Finland without a guardian. The Ministry took the view on that occasion that current legislation was sufficient to ensure that children applying for international protection would be provided with cost-free education.

Additional info will be provided by Legal Adviser Piatta Skotman-Kivelä, tel. + 358(0)9 432 3347.