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Statement to the Education and Culture Committee on the Government's proposal regarding the Compulsory Education Act (Oppivelvollisuuslaki 1214/2020) (TAS 459/2020, issued on 5 November 2020)

The Ombudsman for Equality gave its statement to the Committee on Education and Culture (HE 173/2020 vp) on the Government's proposal to Parliament regarding the Compulsory Education Act (Oppivelvollisuuslaki 1214/2020) and certain related laws. The Government proposes that persons for whom education is compulsory should be obliged to apply for secondary education upon completion of their basic education. The aim of completing secondary education is to raise the educational level and expertise of young people and, thereby, to promote their employment and participation in society. The Ombudsman for Equality supported the measures set out in the Government proposal and paid particular attention to the gender impact assessment and learning differences.

Gender impact assessment of the Government proposal

The provision on the obligation of an authority to promote equality creates the basis for the mainstreaming of the inclusion of the gender perspective in preparatory and decision-making matters.  

There are clear differences between genders in, for example, learning outcomes, drop-out rates, and social exclusion. In a report submitted to Parliament in 2018, the Ombudsman for Equality stated that dropping out of post-primary education is more common among male than female students. In addition, the report showed that the drop-out rate is somewhat higher for male than female students. The Government proposal is expected to reduce the number of young men who only complete basic education and thus increase gender equality. The gender impact assessment included in the Government's proposal uses statistical data and comprehensively highlights the same gendered phenomena.

In conjunction with the gender impact assessment, there is also cause to consider means by which men could be encouraged into traditionally female-dominated sectors and women into traditionally male-dominated sectors. Mitigating segregation can also reduce the average pay gap between women and men.

Special attention must be paid to learning differences

The Ombudsman for Equality welcomed the fact that the aim of the Government proposal is not only to raise the level of education and expertise at all levels of education, but also to reduce the gender gap in terms of learning differences. Section 5 a of the Equality Act provides for the obligation of a school and an educational institution to promote gender equality through an institution-specific equality plan. In accordance with this provision, the educational institution must pay special attention to learning differences in its work promoting equality. This is intended to emphasise that it is not enough for the assessment of academic performance to be equitable. Possible differences in the learning outcomes of girls and boys in, for example, basic education should be assessed and the reasons for the differences should be addressed in different ways. 

In a report to Parliament in 2018, the Ombudsman for Equality recommended that attention be paid to reducing learning differences in order to secure further education opportunities and prevent social exclusion. The aim of the measures included in the Government proposal is, among other things, to improve the opportunities for young people in the final stages of basic education to obtain the information and guidance they need in the transition to further education. The Government proposal draws attention to issues that the Ombudsman for Equality also considers important in order to reduce learning differences and prevent the social exclusion of young people.