Finnish teenagers’ civic knowledge still of high standard (7th November 2017)

Confidence in social institutions highest in the world

Finnish teenagers ranked fourth among 24 countries in the International Civic and Citizenship Education study (ICCS) 2016.

While the Finnish teenagers’ participation in societal activities had slightly increased, it was still at a low level in comparison to the other countries. At the same time the teenagers’ confidence in social institutions had increased, being still stronger than in the other participating countries.

The now reported ICCS study was conducted in Finland in spring 2016 and was already the third round in sequence. The previous studies took place in 1999 and 2009. The target population consisted of 8th-graders.

In 2009 the average score of the Finnish students in civic knowledge (576) was the highest, equalling to the Danish results, of all participating countries. In the latest study, the Finnish average was 577, but the Danes held the first place alone with their average score of 586). Also Chinese Taipei (581) and Sweden (579) were now slightly ahead of Finland in this comparison. Girls outperformed boys in terms of their civic knowledge in all countries. In all Nordic countries this gender gap was now wider than in 2009.

Finnish teenagers’ confidence in social institutions has increased

Finnish 8th-graders trusted in social institutions and active bodies more than the teenagers in any other participating country. The young Finns showed strongest confidence towards police and military force, whereas political parties and social media were trusted the least. The confidence in social institutions increased between the years 2009 and 2016.

The Finnish teenagers held more positive attitudes to the equity of genders than the teenagers across the participating countries on average. As regards the equity of different ethnic groups, the Finnish responses were on level with the international average. Girls’ attitudes to equity were more positive than those among boys. Attitudes to gender and ethnic equity were also associated with the level of students’ civic knowledge: the higher the cognitive test results, the more positive the attitudes were. Across the participating countries on average, like also in Finland, the attitudes towards equity had become more positive between the years 2009 and 2016.

Societal participation still modest

Finnish teenagers’ active engagement and willingness to participate had slightly increased since 2009, but remained still rather low, like also in the other Nordic countries. In Finland, 8th-graders participated very scarcely in the activities of social organisations, clubs or groups. Finnish girls were slightly more active than boys in this respect. The teenagers’ willingness to join in a political party, a trade union or various organisations in the future was on level with the international average and had slightly increased since 2009. The most favoured form of political activity had to do with environmental activities.

The Finnish teenagers showed little and diminished interest toward engagement in legal or illegal demonstrations and protests. As regards legal means, they were most inclined to protest by their own choices as consumers. When it comes to illegal actions, about 10% of the teenagers were ready to spray slogans on walls, block traffic or occupy a public building.

Finnish teenagers did not trust in their own capabilities as societal actors

Despite their good civic knowledge, the Finnish teenagers were least confident among the participating countries as to their own capabilities for action in society. Nonetheless, this confidence had improved a little from 2009 to 2016. Those trusting in their own capabilities were also readier to participate in societal activities and demonstrations.

According to this study, Finnish schools are nevertheless above the average as learning environments for civic skills and knowledge. The schools offer various opportunities for participation and the teachers are highly competent to teach various social themes and civic skills.

–        The results confirm that Finnish teenagers’ civic knowledge and confidence in social institutions are among the highest in the world. The teenagers hold positive attitudes toward efforts for better equity in society and are especially interested in environmental issues. We have still much work to do in order to find ways to get them more interested in social participation. It calls for new ways of action from the political parties and other social institutions, more interaction and transparency, says Minister of Education Sanni Grahn-Laasonen.

-          Finnish teenagers, like their Nordic peers in general, have excellent cognitive and attitudinal basic competences for participation, but most of these teenagers lack the interest and need for more active participation. They are happy with living in a steady representative democracy with functional safety networks, concludes Jouko Mehtäläinen, the national coordinator of the study, from the Finnish Institute for Educational Research.

ICCS 2016 was conducted in Finland by the Finnish Institute for Educational Research in collaboration with the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. Internationally, the study covered 24 countries or regions. In Finland the study involved 179 comprehensive schools, about 3200 eight-grade students and 2200 teachers.

Further information:

Finnish Institute for Educational Research:

Researcher Jouko Mehtäläinen (National Coordinator), tel. +358 40 805 4922,

Associate Professor Juhani Rautopuro (research team leader), tel. +358 40 805 4936,

Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture:

Councellor of Education: Aija Rinkinen, p. 0295 3 30360,

Councellor of Education Tommi Karjalainen, tel. +358 295 3 30140,