Frequently asked questions and answers about the Finnish model for leisure activities
1. What is the Finnish model for leisure activities?
The purpose of the Finnish model for leisure activities is to promote the wellbeing of children and young people by enabling them to engage in fun and free hobbies during the school day. The choice of activities is based on the children and young people’s own preferences. The model will be planned, created and tested in collaboration with leisure activity providers. During the pilot period, which was carried out in 117 municipalities throughout Finland from January 1 to June 5, 2021, leisure activities were offered for students in grades 1 through 9 and students receiving supplementary education. In the school year 2021–2022, leisure activities were offered in 235 municipalities.
The application period for funding granted by the Ministry of Education and Culture for leisure activities for the 2022–2023 school year closed on March 22, 2022. The Regional State Administrative Agencies granted a total of EUR 14.5 million in funding to 235 applicants for implementation of the model. Funding was granted for activities in 249 municipalities. The funding will cover the costs of more than 10,000 leisure activity groups in almost 2,000 schools.
2. How does the Finnish model for leisure activities promote the wellbeing of children and young people?
The wellbeing of children and young people is essential to the flourishing of society as a whole. The Finnish model for leisure activities is a holistic means of helping children and young people to spend their leisure time safely and meaningfully and avoid loneliness by engaging in activities where they learn new skills and make new friends. The model also supports families, as integrating activities into the school day frees up evening time for families to spend together.
3. How can the Finnish model help children and young people who do not participate in leisure activities?
It is particularly important to provide leisure activity-related information for children and young people who do not participate in such activities. The role of professionals in a wide range of areas, such as teachers, student welfare providers, school coaches, multilingual counsellors, and regional youth organization professionals, is to help children and young people who do not have hobbies to find an activity they would like to participate in during the school day. It is highly important that the expertise of the aforementioned actors and others who work with children be put to good use in implementing the Finnish model for leisure activities.
4. How do municipalities decide on the range of leisure activities they offer?
Municipalities must choose and arrange activities based on the views expressed by children and young people, and this information must be obtained before school-specific leisure activity plans are prepared. For information on children and young people’s views regarding leisure activities, municipalities have been offered the chance to either utilize the 2020 school student survey conducted by the Ministry of Education and Culture, or gather such information themselves. The information must be gathered on a school-specific basis. The next nationwide survey of the leisure-related interests of children will be conducted in 2022.
5. According to the survey conducted in 2020, what leisure activities are children and young people interested in?
In 2020, the Ministry of Education and Culture conducted a nationwide survey of children and young people’s interests concerning leisure activities. A total of 197,040 children and young people responded to the survey. The respondents were asked about the activities they would like to participate in during the school day. The survey was sent to all 2,229 schools in Finland providing education for students in grades 1 through 9. The survey participants were presented with a list of 76 activities to choose from. According to the results, 55 percent of the students would like to start a new leisure activity. It was found that one in five students do not have a leisure activity they enjoy, and that more than 60 percent of these students were interested in starting a new leisure activity.
Students from grades 1 through 6 were particularly interested in parkour, climbing, cooking, animal clubs, visual arts, snowboarding/downhill skiing, and soccer. Students from grades 7 through 9 were most interested in gym, snowboarding or downhill skiing, cooking, bowling, shooting/archery, moped repairs, and pool.
Girls and boys have different leisure interests. Girls are generally interested in riding, cooking, visual arts, animal clubs, dancing, climbing and agility, whereas boys generally prefer parkour, game design/coding, soccer, moped repair, BMX/mountain biking, hunting, and snowboarding/downhill skiing. Many girls are also interested in trying out activities such as film club, crafts, fashion drawing and photography, while many boys would be interested in activities related to history, architecture, media, video art, and light art. The Ministry of Education and Culture will conduct the next nationwide school survey in autumn 2022.
6. How long should activity sessions last?
The form does not specify the duration of leisure activity sessions – each municipality is free to decide this independently. However, the sessions must be long enough for the children and young people to properly experience and enjoy the activity.
7. What is national leisure activity week?
The Finnish model for leisure activities includes a national leisure activity week held every year in schools across the country. The main goal of the event is to help children and young people find a new hobby by trying out activities in the arts, culture, science, sport and other fields during the week. They can also explore ideas for new leisure activities all year round on the event website (https://harrastusviikko.fi). The site offers readers information on various hobbies such as creating cartoon characters, parkour, theatre, cooking, and more. In 2022, the leisure activity week will take place from September 5 to 11. The idea for the week came from children and young people themselves.
8. What criteria must leisure activity sessions meet – for instance, do they have to be of a certain duration?
The sessions must offer activities in such a way that they meet the needs and preferences of children or young people – that is, they must be enjoyable, free of charge, and must be integrated into the school day. The grant application form provides more detailed criteria. The form does not specify the duration of leisure activity sessions – each municipality is free to decide this independently. The sessions must be long enough for the children and young people to properly experience and enjoy the activity. A suitable length is therefore e.g. about an hour.
9. What is the age range for persons in charge of leisure activities under the Finnish model?
The persons in charge of the activities must be 18 years of age or older. However, activity group instructors can also be under the age of 18.
10. Where are leisure activities organized in accordance with the Finnish model offered?
In the 2022–2023 school year, activities based on the Finnish model for leisure activities will be offered in 249 municipalities. As a general rule, the leisure activities should take place on school premises or on premises close to the school. However, other locations are also possible if required by the nature of the activity (such as horse riding, skiing, bowling, swimming, or a museum or art gallery club).