KOTOUTUMINEN #16: Schools should encourage pupils to be proud of their roots

by , under Enrique Tessieri

One of the biggest challenges and shortfalls of Finland’s integration law is that it is one-sided: Here is a list of things you must do to adapt to our society. This aim is very general, and if you start to study it closer, you will find no answers.

While language is essential, and Finland places a lot of emphasis on this, it is not your get-out-of-jail pass to live “integrated” and happily forever. As people of color and other minorities know, integration is a two-way street.

Considering the present political landscape and how much minorities influence the public policy of migrants and minorities, we are still a long way off and on the wrong path to achieve a society that respects difference.

If we look at school children in one of the world’s best education systems, why is it that some dark-skinned people are ashamed because they aren’t white enough? This fact forms part of a backdrop of discrimination and bullying at some Finnish schools.


The Yle link to the Migrant Tales story is broken. You’d think that such an important story could be accessed many years after it was published.

I’ve known children who try avoiding the sun in summer, so their skin doesn’t tan. What do you think if such children, today adults, use mascara to whiten their skins?

In my opinion, it shows that our education system has failed in reinforcing and promoting diversity. White Finnish exceptionalism appears to be one of the main culprits.

Being a teacher is a challenging job.

Even so, are primarily white Finnish teachers of the school system getting sufficient diversity and anti-racism training? Are they instilling in their pupils that they too are equal members of society and that there are many types of Finns of different backgrounds?

Or do these teachers use derogatory and exclusive terms like “a person of migrant background?” Do they believe that solving social problems only means learning the Finnish language or getting a job?

We need more best practices in social inclusion. If we put our heads together and find the will, I am confident we can learn and build a more inclusive society for everyone irrespective of their background.

See also:

*Kotoutiminen is the Finnish term for integration. It came about in the late-1990s because there was no such term in the Finnish language. Finland is one of the few countries in the world that has an integration law. The many holes this law has is that it does not grasp what integration, or adaption, means for the person who “integrates.”