Finnish parents are increasingly taking their kids out of schools with a heavy immigrant population. Families are even moving into different school districts to get their kids into schools with fewer immigrants.
One school in southern Finland says parents began pulling their children out of the school when the proportion of immigrant kids reached 40 percent.
“We didn’t see a flight when the proportion of immigrant kids was 30 percent. But as we reached the 40 percent mark, an exodus began,” says the principal of the school, who wishes the name of his school not be published as it already suffers from a poor reputation.
The principal says most parents are discrete about the reasons for taking their kids out of the school; however, some families are more direct.
“In one case the parents said they pulled their child because the child’s class did not have a single ethnic Finnish boy, which the parents said contributed to their child having no friends,” explains the principal.
Segregation of schools accelerates
Venla Bernelius, an urban geography researcher at the University of Helsinki, says the Finnish schools system is at a crossroads. Currently, a third of primary school pupils and half of secondary school students attend schools outside their district determined by residence. Special classes have long affected school choice, but parents are now increasingly paying attention to the student population at schools.
”Finland is going down the same road as Sweden and France. It appears as if differences between schools are growing due to parental choice and a widening gap in neighbourhoods,” says Bernelius.
Officials have attempted to stem the trend by allocating more funds to schools with special needs pupils.
“The main issue is where immigrants and foreigners settle down to live. It all boils down to urban planning,” says Rauno Jarnila, who heads Helsinki city’s Education Administration.