Civic knowlegde of Finnish young people at top level (29th June 2010)

Young people have little interest in politics and societal issues

The civic knowledge of Finnish and Danish young people is at top level. The civic knowledge of young people has decreased in many countries during the last ten years, but Finland is an exception. Young people in Finland are not interested in politics or societal issues but they trust in society’s institutions.

These results were found in the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study, ICCS, conducted in Finland as collaboration between the Finnish Institute for Educational Research at the University of Jyväskylä and Ministry of Education and Culture. The international and Finnish preliminary results were published today. 3307 8th graders from 176 schools and 2295 teachers took part in the study in Finland in the spring of 2009. Information was also gathered from school principals.

- Finnish PISA success is now followed by success in the area of civic knowledge, says director of the study, Professor Pekka Kupari.

- Civic issues are discussed within all school subjects in Finland, but they are most closely tied to history, social studies, geography, religion, philosophy, home economics and health education, adds researcher Annikka Suoninen.

Civic knowledge of Finnish youth internationally at top level

Students on the 8th grade of Finnish comprehensive school received the top score (576 points) in the study of 38 countries. Finland shared the number one spot with Denmark. Korea (565 points) and Taiwan (559) were the other two countries in the top four. Sweden and Norway also scored well above the international average of 500 points.

- Differences in the level of civic knowledge between countries participating in the study are great, but so are the differences within countries as well. In Finland, however, these differences are smaller than in other countries, says Kupari. - However, in Finland, the difference between girls and boys (28 points in girls’ favour) is bigger than the international average (22 points). In Finland pupils’ knowledge is not only related to gender but also to parents’ occupational status and their interest in societal issues, Kupari continues.

In the 1999 study, Finland was also in the top four, the other countries being Poland, Cyprus and Greece. Denmark’s ranking was then average and Korea and Taiwan did not participate at all. The score of the Finnish pupils has risen slightly during the ten previous years, while in most other countries scores have fallen markedly.

Finnish youth is societally passive

In international comparison, young people in Finland are not interested in politics and societal issues: they ranked at the bottom (46 % interested) with Sweden, Belgium, Slovenia and Norway. Only few Finnish young people support a political party or are planning to join a party as adults. Only 27 % of Finnish young people expressed interest in a political party, while the international average is 48 %. The only country with less interest in political parties was Korea (13%). 12 % of Finnish young people are planning to join a political party as adults, while the international average is 27 %. Only Belgium (9 %) and the Czech Republic (10 %) fall behind Finland.

Finnish young people are active in one political area: as adults they plan to vote in elections. 85 % plan to vote in national elections, which is over the international average of 81 %. Furthermore, 85 % plan to vote in the municipal elections. Of societal issues, Finnish young people are most interested in environmental issues (61 % interested). Finnish young people are not interested in civic organizational activities. Almost two
thirds (64 %) reported no interest in taking part in the activity of a civic organization, while the international average is 35 %. The only countries more passive than Finland are Taiwan and Korea. However, Finnish young people are markedly more interested in organized leisure activities, such as sports and athletic clubs.

Finnish young people trust in society’s institutions

Students on the 8th grade of Finnish comprehensive school trust in the society’s institutions. 82 % of the youth trust in the national government, while the international average is 62 %. 61 % trust in Finnish political parties (mean value 41 %) and 80 % in
media (mean value 60 %). Of other social institutions, Finnish young people have most trust in the police and in the defence forces. 90 % of the youth trust these institutions entirely or almost entirely. Over 80 % of the youth also trust universities, public administration, courts of justice and the
United Nations. Market forces and religious communities are least trusted among the youth.

What is the ICCS study?

The purpose of the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS) is to investigate the ways in which young people are prepared to undertake their roles as active citizens in the 21st century society. The study is carried out by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). The Finnish Institute for Educational Research at the University of Jyväskylä is a member of IEA.

Further information:

Professor Pekka Kupari, +358 14 260 3278,
Researcher Annikka Suoninen, +358 14 260 3208,
Publications Manager Jouni Sojakka, +358 14 260 3230,
The Finnish website of the study and the published report are available at:
Further information in English at: