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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



Results through strengths – guidance counselling activities in upper secondary schools for adults

Language: EN
Document available also in: FI SV FR



According to Armi Nurmi, upper secondary education for adults is supporting continuous learning and preventing social exclusion.

Upper secondary schools for adults and adult tracks at upper secondary schools are part of general upper secondary education in Finland. Upper secondary schools are suited for anyone who is interested in upper secondary studies and has sufficient knowledge and skills to do well in their studies. Most of the students are aged 20 to 40 and come from all walks of life. Each student dreams of completing their matriculation examination or enhancing their chances of studying at a higher education institution, improving their employability and succeeding in working life. 

The studies at upper secondary schools for adults follow the core curriculum of upper secondary education for adults. Such schools enable students to study the entire syllabus of the curriculum, continue unfinished upper secondary studies and take the matriculation examination. Vocational studies also enable students to take the matriculation examination, whereupon the subjects to be studied are those required for said examination.  Students of upper secondary schools for adults can also study individual subjects according to their interests. Many students prepare for the entrance tests of higher education institutions by studying individual subjects. Others want to improve their language or mathematical skills to correspond with the requirements of working life. Upper secondary schools for adults work in close cooperation with public employment and business services and Ohjaamo guidance centres. The schools constantly accept new students through an ongoing admission process.

A study plan is made for each student in cooperation with a guidance counsellor. Previous studies and skills are taken into account through credit transfers. It is also important to consider the student’s overall situation in life when preparing a personal study plan. For example, learning, learning difficulties, resources, health, work, finances and family situation are some of the factors that are taken into account. Adult learners are often motivated and eager to study, and combining these with personal career goals often results in efficient studying.

Upper secondary schools for adults throughout Finland support

  • the completion of upper secondary studies
  • enabling a good life and meaningful studies based on the student’s special needs
  • prevention and mitigation of marginalisation in society
  • the integration of immigrants and the improvement of cognitive skills
  • enabling people under structural changes in their locality to study

Upper secondary education for adults promote equality and encourage students to cooperate

Upper secondary education diversely utilises learning environments that increase the student’s knowledge of further studies, working life as well as IT and communications technology. Different learning environments are used to support the student’s motivation to learn and help the student find their strengths. Upper secondary schools for adults throughout the country guide, inspire and promote constant learning and improve the student’s skills of planning their future.

The special characteristics of adult learning are taken into consideration in the arrangements. Preparatory studies for upper secondary education are an excellent way of improving the language skills of immigrants and non-Finnish-speakers and the learning skills of students. In addition, the studies aim to improve the student’s skills of being an active citizen in Finnish society. Another objective of the studies is to support and promote the students’ skills in their first language, where possible. Students graduating from upper secondary schools for adults are generally eligible for further studies, such as universities of applied sciences and universities.

The values of the national core curriculum for adult upper secondary education are based on the educational traditions of Finland. In other words, upper secondary education for adults is based on respecting life and human rights as well as justice. Upper secondary education for adults promotes equality and parity as well as well-being and democracy. Each educational institution providing upper secondary education for adults is a community. In such educational communities, people from various backgrounds, whether based on language, worldview or religion, have the opportunity to identify shared values and principles for good life and to practise cooperation. The institutions encourage students to care about each other and take an interest in the well-being of others. Upper secondary schools for adults value creativity, the ability to take initiative, honesty and perseverance. The institutions aim to diversely utilise experiences meaningful for learning as well as various learning environments in their teaching activities, thus enabling the experience of succeeding. In a supportive environment, failures provide an opportunity for growth. Teachers and students are encouraged to try new things and experiment. Upper secondary schools for adults throughout the country are committed to developing the operational culture.

Positive pedagogy is a strong tool in upper secondary education for adults

In upper secondary education for adults, guidance activities continue throughout the studies. The purpose of study-related guidance is to support the student in their upper secondary education and to ensure that the student finds sufficient information and skills to handle the transitions and changes in their life. All the employees of upper secondary education share the responsibility for guidance activities. The guidance is implemented in a way that highlights the students’ active role, involvement and responsibility. The goal is for the student to find their own unique ways of learning through their strengths.

Knowing your strengths supports the development of self-esteem and helps you become more aware of your positive traits and capacity. Each person is a unique combination of skills and strengths. There is no one quite like you. Once you understand this, you are able to build a constructive connection with your uniqueness. Positive pedagogy enables all this and helps turn any previous negative learning experiences into a positive end result at upper secondary schools for adults. The key task of upper secondary education for adults is to help the student find their motivation and passion for studying through guidance.

Diverse information management methods activate the student, enhance their problem-solving skills and encourage them to think about and value various alternatives. Once a student is encouraged to express themselves and their views, they also learn to assess their learning and the consequences of their actions. By learning to know themselves and appreciating the experience of uniqueness, students can deepen their self-respect and life management skills, thus inspiring continuous learning and self-development. This also has to do with understanding one’s own responsibility for learning and acknowledging learning as part of working.

Supporting continuous learning and preventing social exclusion

All upper secondary schools for adults in Finland aim to ensure that all their policies consistently support the learning objectives set for teaching activities. The aim of upper secondary schools is to build a sustainable future, by respecting life and the environment. We aim to ensure that our students know how to observe and assess modern phenomena and operating environments as well as to analyse their ways of life and the decisions they have made. High-quality teaching and diverse and sufficiently recurring study modules enable smooth progress in studies. At upper secondary schools for adults, students are offered the opportunity for continuous learning, regardless of age and cultural background.

The students’ understanding of Finnish culture and other cultures grows deeper through various subjects and students from different cultures enable intercultural interaction. The diversity of the students and the heterogeneous age structure also help the students understand the diversity of our society. The school events support cooperation and interaction between the employees and students. The employees are offered the chance to develop their professional skills and supported in their self-motivated education and training.

Upper secondary schools for adults throughout the country carry out important work in preventing social exclusion. Most of the students at upper secondary schools for adults previously dropped out of general upper secondary education or vocational education and training. There are many reasons for dropping out. In upper secondary schools for adults students are given new opportunities every day. Each student at an upper secondary school for adults dreams of completing their matriculation examination, thus finding results through their strengths.


Armi Nurmi

Suomen opinto-ohjaajat ry, Chair

Salo upper secondary school, lecturer of guidance counselling and vice-principal of the adult track



National core curriculum for general upper secondary education for adults 2015, Finnish National Agency for Education.

Act on General Upper Secondary Education 10 August 2018/714

Sivenius, Ari. Aikuislukion eetos opettajien merkityksenantojen valossa. Kopijyvä Oy, 2012.


This article is a part of a series of articles about guidance in Finland. The series of articles is published by Euroguidance and EPALE teams at the Finnish National Agency for Education. The articles are published throughout Finland’s EU Presidency, approximately one article per month.

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