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The national situation of Cultural Education Plans in Finland: Municipal Survey

This article presents the results of the municipal survey conducted by The Association of Finnish Children’s Cultural Centers (2024). The survey aimed to map the coordination, contents, experiences of existing Cultural Education Plans in Finland, and in municipalities where there is no plan yet, the reasons and potential needs for assistance.

A total of 158 responses were received from 138 different municipalities (Finland has a total of 309 municipalities). 79% of respondents have a Cultural Education Plan in place, while 17% do not. 4% were unsure if there is a Cultural Education Plan in their municipality. The survey indicated the diverse ways municipalities coordinate plans. For instance, over 50 different titles were mentioned for individuals responsible for coordinating Cultural Education Plans, with the most common being cultural producer. 

Municipalities of various sizes responded to the survey. The highest number of responses came from small municipalities with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants (35%) and municipalities with 5,000 – 10,000 inhabitants (21%), as well as larger municipalities with 20,000 – 50,000 inhabitants (17%). This is explained by the small size of Finnish municipalities (the average municipality size in Finland is 18,006 inhabitants and the median size is 5,879). Respondents were from cultural affairs departments (51%) and municipal educational administration (61%). Sometimes the departments could overlap. Other respondents (11%) were from welfare sectors and leisure services.

Municipalities with a Cultural Education Plan

Accessibility of Cultural Education Plans

The survey mapped the school levels where Cultural Education Plans are implemented. The educational path of Finnish children consists of early childhood education, pre-primary education, basic education, and secondary education and is drawn up grade-by-grade. 99% of municipalities have the plan in use in basic education (grade 1-6). Somewhat surprisingly, the second most common level for Cultural Education Plans is pre-primary education. Although pre-primary education is nominally part of early childhood education and care in Finland, in many municipalities, it is integrated into basic education, and thus part of the basic education Cultural Education Plan. Many municipalities also mentioned that preschoolers may not have a formal plan but are included in either basic education or early childhood education and care. Only one municipality reported not using the plan in basic education, but only in early childhood education and care. In early childhood education, the cultural education plan was used in only 68% of municipalities. Variation within early childhood education and care arises from whether the plan includes only municipal units or also private ones. This raises questions of equality among municipalities.

A positive surprise was the number of plans in upper secondary education (31%). The compulsory education was extended to include secondary education in Finland in 2021. Expanding Cultural Education Plans with compulsory education is a crucial message about the importance of cultural education as part of education at all age levels. Additionally, adding plans for vocational education at the upper secondary level (2%) is essential for promoting equality between age groups. 

In addition to these, Cultural Education Plans were used in preparatory education, for the elderly (where the term “Cultural Education Plan” may not necessarily be used), and in community colleges.

Through the Cultural Education Plans of the 118 municipalities that responded to the survey, approximately 290,000 Finnish children and young people will have the opportunity to experience and create diverse and high-quality art and culture across different school levels. It can be estimated that currently over half a million children and young people across Finland are covered by cultural education plans! This would mean that over half a million Finnish children and young people would have access to free, high-quality, age-appropriate, and diverse arts and cultural experiences throughout the school year, experiences they might not otherwise have access to.

Resource Allocation

The survey mapped municipalities’ methods for resourcing their Cultural Education Plans. The most common method was pooling funds from various sectors’ budgets (36% of respondents). Typically, this involves pooling funds from cultural and educational budgets. In most cases, in solutions combining different sectors, a fixed amount is allocated from each sector’s budget for plan content. However, not all pooling occurs on a 50/50 basis; expenditures may be divided by topic among different sectors. For example, in one municipality, the primary funding for the plan comes from basic education, with cultural services contributing by organizing events suitable for the plan as needed. The second most common method, according to the survey, is allocating resources solely from one sector’s budget (30% of respondents).

The majority of municipalities thus allocate resources for the plan from one or more sectors’ budgets (a total of 66% of respondents). The operational methods behind these two primary resource allocation methods varied more. Only 10% of respondents allocated a separate budget specifically for Cultural Education Plans. Less than one-tenth (6%) of responding municipalities did not allocate annual resources from the municipal budget for a Cultural Education Plan. Other methods included implementing the plan with the help of associations. In such cases, the municipality distributes grants to associations, which may offer workshops related to the cultural education plan. Another similar method was to implement the plan using testamentary funds. One respondent pointed out that not all implementation even incurs costs, as only the time spent by the actors is counted as expenses. Unfortunately, there is no established practice everywhere for plan resourcing, and there are no guarantees for the continuity of a plan funded by testamentary or project funds, for example.

Cultural Education Plan Contents

The most common art forms included in Cultural Education Plans were music (98%), visual arts (94%), museums (93%), and literature (91%). The least included were spatial and environmental art (35%) and circus arts (41%). In addition to the art forms mentioned in the figure below, municipalities stated that their plans also include architecture, media arts, puppetry, and photography, among others. The plans were mentioned to also include aspects of cultural heritage, history and civic participation themes, sustainable development, local heritage work, customs, global education, event organization, tourism, creative work, entrepreneurship in the tourism industry, and culinary culture.

At their best, Cultural Education Plans offer children and young people a diverse array of different art forms as part of the school year. The Cultural Education Plans of the municipalities that responded to the survey included an average of seven different art forms. This should be viewed in relation to municipalities that do not yet have a plan. Most municipalities feel that without a Cultural Education Plan, students would not have the opportunity to experience a diverse range of art forms. In many municipalities, Cultural Education Plans are perceived as vital for ensuring equal opportunities for all students. Through the subject-based system of Finnish basic education, the only art forms provided are literature, music, and visual arts. Except for music, performing arts such as theater, dance, and circus are completely absent from basic education, depriving children and young people of any exposure to these art forms. Due to the lack of a broad general education foundation, seeking engagement in these areas as a hobby or even as a form of further education and employment later on is difficult and unlikely.

Benefits of Cultural Education Plans

A survey was conducted to determine the key benefits of Cultural Education Plans according to municipalities.

The most significant benefit of Cultural Education Plans was perceived to be the promotion of equal opportunities for children and young people to experience art and culture (95% of respondents). Additionally, familiarity with the local culture received the second highest number of votes (88% of respondents). Thus, municipalities see cultural education plans as a significant and necessary means of realizing children’s rights. Municipalities identified the improvement of the quality of cultural education as the third most significant benefit (68% of respondents).

It is important that the primary perceived benefits of Cultural Education Plans are directed towards children and young people. This is a compelling indication of the significance of Cultural Education Plans and their ability to reach their primary target audience, students. Behind these, the other benefits of the plans are largely aimed at the school environment. From the school’s perspective, the most important benefits were seen as the new learning environments (64%), as well as the deepening or broadening of curriculum objectives (57%).

Benefits identified by municipalities included the structures and systematic planning created by Cultural Education Plans, as well as increased activity by cultural operators. Systematic planning was evident in responses as clear ways to implement cultural education and integrate it into school curricula. Systematic planning and continuity in activities “address the lack of arts subjects in the curriculum” and make activities purposeful. Benefits linked to cultural operators’ activities included the improvement of services provided by cultural operators to schools, increased visibility of cultural creators, increased collaboration between schools and cultural operators, and increased employment in the cultural sector. Additionally, the plan was seen to benefit cultural operators by cultivating children and young people as future users of cultural services.

Challenges Related to Cultural Education Plans

Up to 73 percent of municipalities mentioned challenges related to implementing the plan. The key challenges were related to resources, school participation, the content of cultural education plans, and regional inequality.

The most common challenge relates to a lack of resources. In as many as 62 percent of responses, resources were mentioned as at least one challenge. The poor financial situation of Finnish municipalities, especially in the cultural sector, was strongly reflected in the responses. The second most common challenge was related to school participation – or more specifically, non-participation. Non-participation of schools and individual classes in the content of the plan becomes apparent, especially when the use of content is the responsibility of the teacher or school. In such cases, participation rates vary significantly between classes and schools, resulting in unequal access to cultural education. 

Challenges in the content of Cultural Education Plans largely stem from the scarcity of available offerings. Particularly in small and rural municipalities in Finland, the number of operators and offerings may be very limited, with simply no content providers in the area. Challenges in resourcing and limited offerings inevitably lead to regional inequality. Especially in rural and geographically extensive municipalities, long distances place schools in unequal positions. Schools further away require more transportation resources, as most plan contents are located in central areas. Transportation was actually the biggest single expense mentioned. If transportation resources come from the school’s own budgets, the location of schools can exacerbate inequality. If participation in activities is still teacher- or school-specific, there can be significant differences in participation opportunities between schools.

Municipalities Without Cultural Education Plan

The majority of Finnish municipalities (56%), that do not yet have a Cultural Education Plan, believed that it should be developed for the municipality. Justifications included promoting equality in cultural participation, enhancing the municipality’s image, ensuring systematic planning and goal-setting, as well as fostering appreciation for culture and its role in the community. Cultural Education Plans were thought to enhance the equal experience and engagement in culture across different age groups within the municipality, which aligns with the perceived benefits of existing Cultural Education Plans and underscores their importance and necessity as implementers of children’s and young people’s cultural rights. Investing in equal access to culture and systematic cultural education was seen as an important part of the municipality’s image and cultural development.

However, it is concerning to note that the proportion of municipalities not intending to develop a Cultural Education Plan (26%) was larger than those respondents who believe that a Cultural Education Plan should not be developed in the municipality (15%). This indicates a poor situation regarding cultural education in municipalities and the entire cultural sector in Finland. Even though a Cultural Education Plan is considered important and worth doing, municipalities may not necessarily intend to create one due to the reasons mentioned earlier.

Reasons Why Municipalities Don’t Have Cultural Education Plan

The survey also investigated barriers that municipalities face in developing Cultural Education Plans in Finland.

The main reason for the lack of a Cultural Education Plan in municipalities is a shortage or fluctuation of personnel resources. The three main reasons, lack of personnel resources (32%), lack of time (18%), and lack of financial resources (11%), are closely related, forming a comprehensive picture of municipalities where insufficient financial resources allocated to culture result in cultural workers being overworked and lacking time to develop a Cultural Education Plan alongside other tasks. The differences in cultural services among municipalities are nationally significant, varying in terms of staffing levels, expertise, available working hours, and even the existence of the position itself. Adequate cultural offerings and recreational opportunities in the municipality (9%) and effective collaboration between schools and cultural institutions (7%) were the next most significant reasons.


Improving resource allocation, content availability, and regional equality could strengthen the significance of Cultural Education Plans in the lives of children and young people. The results are a step towards developing cultural education and understanding its importance at the municipal level in Finland. As one respondent commented, “Working with the cultural education plan feels valuable,” and “The cultural education plan is worthwhile!”

More information

Eeva Laitinen, project coordinator

The Association of Finnish Children’s Cultural Centers / 044 269 0512

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