Revisiting universalism in the Finnish education system


  • Mira Kalalahti University of Turku
  • Janne Varjo University of Helsinki


universalism, comprehensive school, basic education act


The aim of the article is to revisit the principle of universalism and analyze how it has changed in the legislation on compulsory education by asking: how are different characteristics of universalism emphasized in the basic education legislation and parliamentary discussion (in 1968, 1982 and 1997)? The analysis portrays the varieties of universalism within the comprehensive school, produced by the four instruments used to govern education (legislation, economy, ideology and evaluatory). According to the analysis, the foundation of the comprehensive school system in the 1960s was laid on uniform content and aims at the ideological level, emphasizing equality of education. The 1980s was a transition phase between ‘old’ and ‘new’ universalism, when instruments of legal and economic governance enabled the expansion of universalism and increased costs. Simultaneously, the aims of the comprehensive system and its contents were increasingly set at the local level. We conclude that the ‘new’ comprehension of universalism in the 1990s entailed issues such as the rise of the evaluation of education, local economy of education and individualism.




How to Cite

Kalalahti, M., & Varjo, J. (2021). Revisiting universalism in the Finnish education system. Finnish Journal of Social Research, 13, 25–40.