Adult education for Samis

A survey for UNESCO

January 2000

Svein Lund
Sámi Instituhtta

Nordic Sami Institute

Denne rapporten på norsk

Reports from UNESCO Institute of Education about adult education for indigenous peoples. May be downloaded in pdf-format, including this report.


The Sami people is an indigenous people living in the northern areas of Norway, Sweden and Finland and the Kola peninsula in Russia. Several states have through history sought to control the natural resources and the people of Sápmi or Samiland, and the borders across Sápmi have been altered several times. The four countries where the Samis live have all included them into their national education system. The Samis have had to, and still have to, fight to get an education which to any extent is built on their own language and culture, giving knowledge which is relevant to them. Therefore an analysis of adult education for Samis will not mainly be an analysis of a Sami education, but an analysis of four educational systems, how these have hit the Sami people and to which extent the Samis have manage to get any adaptation for their needs.

The systems of adult education is quite different in all the four countries. The systems are also complex, involving various institutions and organizations. It is not possible to analyse the adult education for Samis without understanding the general organizing of adult education, and education in general, in these countries.

So far there has been little research within this field. It was necessary therefore to start from scratch by trying to find out what the various institution were doing in all the four countries..Unfortunately the questionnaires gave little result and therefore it became necessary to contact institutions by telephones and personal visits. The gathering of information became therefore so time consuming that it became necessary to restrict the survey. This report contains therefore mainly information about the situation in Norway. In addition there is some information about the most important institutions in Sweden and Finland, while Russia so far is excluded, because of lack of information. In spite of several letters and telephones, we have not got any written information from Russia. Here should also have been an analysis of the budgets and economical conditions both for providers of courses and for students, but there has so far not been time for this work. However I hope that this survey will give some ideas about the present situation. Further I hope that it will encourage readers within educational administration on state, county and municipal level, as well as in Sami institutions and research, to give higher priority to this area of work. I hope that somebody will use this work as a beginning and complete the survey to give a more entire picture of the adult education for the Sami population.

The information is gathered through almost whole 1999 and January 2000, and in some cases it may therefore already be a little outdated. Anyhow it should not severely influence the main conclutions.

I will thank everybody who have contributed with information. A lot of people have been very helpful, and I can’t mention them all by name. But especially useful has been the contact with Mats Steinfjell, course inspector at the Sami Secondary School and Reindeer Herding School.
As my English language is not the very best, several people have helped me correcting it at different stages of the work. I will thank Alison Williams Bailey, Rosaline Schau and Barbara Glowacka. Anyhow it has been necessary to make changes in text after their contribution, so the remaining mistakes are all my own responsibility.

28.01.2000 Svein Lund


2.1.1. UNESCO / ILO 12
2.1.2. ICAE 12
2.1.3. OECD 12
2.1.4. EU / EEA 13
2.1.5. Norden 13
3.1.1. Sami Council 19
3.1.2. Sámi Instituhtta 19
3.1.3. Sami Parliaments 20
3.2. NORWAY 20
3.2.1. State education administration 20
3.2.2. Sami Educational Council 23
3.2.3. Sami Parliament 24
3.2.4. Labour Market Administration 24
3.2.5. Reindeer husbandry administration 26
3.2.6. County administration 27
3.2.7. Municipalities 28
3.2.8. The Coordination Commitee for Finnmark Educational Region 31
3.2.9. Sami secondary education 34
3.2.10. Colleges and universities 36
3.2.11. Sami Folk High School 39
3.2.12. Study associations 39
3.2.13. Sami trade organizations 41
3.3. SWEDEN 41
3.3.1. State education administation 41
3.3.2. The Sami School Board 41
3.3.3. Sami Parliament 42
3.3.4. Labour Market Administration 42
3.3.5 Counties and municipalities 42
3.3.6 Sami Education Centre 42
3.3.7. Colleges and universities 44
3.3.8. Study associations 44
3.3.9. Same Eatnam 45
3.4. FINLAND 45
3.4.1. State education administration 45
3.4.2. Sami Parliament 45
3.4.3. Lappland county 46
3.4.4. Municipalities 46
3.4.5. SOG - Sami Education Centre 46
4.1. NEEDS 48
4.1.1. Language 48
4.1.2. Culture 48
4.1.3. Vocational education 48
4.1.4. Computer technology 49
4.1.5. Higher education 49
4.2.1. Gender and education 49
4.2.2. Short time educated 50
4.2.3. Reindeer husbandry 50
5.1. NORWAY 52
5.2. SWEDEN 52
5.3. FINLAND 53
5.4. ALL-SAMI 53
7.1.1. International 56
7.1.2. Norden / All-Sami 56
7.1.3. Norway 56
7.1.4. Sweden 58
7.1.5. Finland 58
7.2.1. International 58
7.2.2. Norden / All-Sami 58
7.2.3. Norway 58
7.2.4. Sweden 59
7.2.5. Finland 59

1. Samis and Sami education

1.1. Sami population and language situation

The Samis (formerly called Lapps) are the indigenous people of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola peninsula in Russia. Among these four states only Norway has so far accepted the Sami people as an indigenous people according to the ILO Convention no. 169. In Sweden the government is considering the question of ratification. There are very different opinions among politicians whether to ratify or not. Finland has, by decision in Parliament, in principle accepted that Samis are an indigenous people in Finland, but not ratified the ILO Convention.

The Samis live mainly in areas which are quite scarcely populated. They were earlier dominating these vast areas, but through centuries neighbouring people have settled in their areas. They have come as farmers, as fishermen and often as people with higher education and as authorities. Gradually the population in many areas is very mixed, and many people are of mixed origin. Today there are a few municipalities where the Sami population is in a clear majority.

The educational level has up to recently been considerably lower in the areas with much Sami population than in average for each countries. This does not only refer to the Sami population, but also to the population of other origin. There are several reasons for the low educational standard: The area was dominated by primary industries like reindeer herding, fishing and agriculture, very often people lived from a combination of livelihoods. This work was not taught in school, but in practical work. A great part of this area was burnt by the Nazis under the second world war, and for some years during and after the war many children got almost no education at all. There were earlier very few schools of secondary and higher education in this area, and mainly children from upper classes could afford go far away for studies. Even if the possibilities are much better today, there is still a gap between the educational level of the elder population of this area and the average of the countries.

It is difficult to say how big is the Sami population, because the states' oppression of Sami language and culture has forced many Samis to hide and reject their identity. Many have also a mixed background, with both Samis and other ethnic groups among their ancestors. Different sources give quite different numbers. One of the most recent sources estimate that there are approximately 40-60000 Samis in Norway, 20-25000 in Sweden, 7000 in Finland and 2- 4000 in Russia. In total this amounts to between 70000 and 100000 Samis. Other sources can give different figures.

The Sami language or languages belong to the Finnish-Ugrian group, which means that it is related to Finnish, but very different from the other neighbouring languages, which all are Indo-European. Also about number of Sami language users there are different estimates. One is 30-35000 people , which will say between a third and a half of the Sami population. Much of the difficulty of giving exact number for this arises from how one should clarify a «user of the Sami language». There are many who understand the language without speaking it actively. On the other hand, there are some who do not have Sami language as their first language, but to some extent have learnt the language in school or as adults. Among these are both Samis and non-Samis.

The Sami language consists of dialects which are so different that they may as well be considered as independent languages. Among Sami language users 80-90% speak North Sami. In addition there are 9 other main dialects, among them are 5 standardized written languages. The following are the languages or main dialects which are more or less taught in schools: North Sami (Norway, Sweden, Finland), Lule Sami (Norway, Sweden), South Sami (Norway, Sweden), Enare Sami (Finland), East Sami (Finland) and Kildin Sami (Russia).
There are very few remaining users of the other main dialects (Ume-, Pite-, Ter- and Akkala Sami), and these are currently no longer being passed on to new generations.

Norway, Sweden and Finland have official definitions of Samis, used for the census for elections to Sami parliaments. The census consists people who:
n declare that they considering themselves being Sami, and that
n either the person oneself or at least one of parents, grandparents or great-grandparents has or had Sami language as home language.

Except for this voluntary registration of people over 18 years, there are no other records of who are Sami in either Sweden or Norway. In Finland the Sami census is built on old lists of Samis, so that most Samis did not have to register themselves. Others can apply for registration, but many applications have been rejected because of a fear that people of mainly Finnish origin, who are against Sami rights, will try to destroy the Sami Parliament from inside. Russia has no Sami census. There, until 1993, nationality was registered in passports. People of mixed origin had to choose nationality, and very often they choo se another nationality than Sami.

When public organs are refering to Sami people, they often only refer to the Sami speaking Samis and not to all Sami people. A typical example of this is the reply from one public institution, when phoning them asking about adult educations for Samis: "- so adult educations for Sami speakers". In that way the Sami question is reduced to a question of language. It has also, especially in Sweden, been a tendency only to consider people as Samis if they were living from reindeer husbandry, despite the fact that the reindeer husbandry Samis have always been a minority of the Sami population.

In this survey the concept "Sami" conserns everybody of Sami origin, whatever their place of living, occupation and language might be.

1.2. Sami organizations and institutions

The Sami people has never had a state of their own. Their original organizing was in siida-s. A siida was a term both for an area of land and for the population living there. In some areas there could be meetings of representatives from several siidas, but the independent Sami organization did not develop further before the Samis were included in the conquering states and their area was divided into counties and municipalities, usually governed by representatives of the non-Sami populations.

The Samis started organizing independently on local level around the turn of the last century, and on national level from 1917. The opening day of the first Sami national congress, 6th of February 1917, is today celebrated as "The Day of the Sami People". But in the 1920’s the independent Sami organizations were dismantled under the hard pressure of the anti-Sami politic of the state authorities, and they did not manage to organize again until after the Second World War.

In 1953 there was arranged a Nordic Sami Conference . Such conferences are held every third or fourth year since then, with representatives of Samis from Norway, Sweden, Finland and from 1992 also Russia. The Sami Conference is the highest common organ of the Sami people and consists of representatives of Sami organizations (NGOs) The Sami Conference elect the Sami Council (Sámirᘘi), formerly called Nordic Sami Council, which has its secretariat in Ohcejohka/Utsjoki on the Finnish side.

Already the Sami Conference in 1971 expressed that Sami folk high schools and adult education should be promoted. The 14. Sami Conference in 1989 decided a Programme of Sami Education and School. In this programme there is only one sentence about adult education:
"Adults should have the possibility to learn Sami language in Sami areas".

The following are some of the most important Sami organizations in each country, with some key words about their function and if they are represented in the Sami Council (here: SC) or in the respective Sami Parliaments (here: SP). The organizations are given with names in North Sami and/or the respective language of the country:

Name in SamiName in state languageabbrfoundedSC,SP
Norgga Sámiid Riikkasearvi Norske Samers Riksforbund NSR 1968 SC, SP Fights for Sami land rights.
Sámiid Eatnansearvi Samenes Landsforbund SLF 1979 SC Against SP and Sami land rights. Does not take part in SP elections
Sámiid álbmotlihttu Samenes Folkeforbund SFF 1990? SP Politically betweeen NSR and SLF
Norgga Boazodoallosápmelaččaid Riikkasearvi Norges Reindriftsamers Landsforbund NRL 1948 SC. Trade organization for reindeer herders
Davvi Nuorra 1990? Youth organization
Ruoŧa Sámiid Riikkasearvi Svenska Samernas Riksförbund SSR 1950 SC,SP Biggest Swedish Sami organization
Sami Ätnam 1980 SC,SP Culture- and handicraft organization
Landsförbundet Svenska Samer 1944 SP
Samerna 1996 SP
Renägarf&246;rbundet 1992 Profession organization for reindeer herders
Sáminuorra Youth organization
Suoma Sámi Guovddášsearvi SSG 1998
Suoma Sámi Nuorat SSN 1991 Youth organization
Guoládaga sámiid searvi 1989 SC
Lujávri sámiid searvi 1997
Sami Nurash Youth organization
Tasst Youth organization

The five mentioned Sámi youth organizations in 1999 formed a Sami Youth Council named Dávgi.
A Sami Womens Organization, Sáráhkká, was founded in 1988. Later is also formed a Sami Nisson Forum. Both have members from all four countries. In addition there are Sámi sports associations, organizations for Sami students and different professions within health care, media and culture. Some of these are inside one single country, others are All-Sami. In the 1970’s there was an organization for Sami teachers, but this does not seem to be functioning any longer.

The first Sami elected assembly came in Finland, already in 1973. Later there were founded similar Sami Parliaments in Norway 1989 and in Sweden 1993. All have mainly consultative status, but gradually they have got mandate to decide something within limitations, for instance use of state money for Sami purposes. There is all the time a political struggle about the power of the Sami Parliaments, as regards land rights, education, culture and health. The three Sami Parliaments are planning to make up a common secretariat.

1.3. Sami education

The traditional Sami education was a training through practical work. The children took part in the activities which their family did for living, e.g. foodmaking, hunting, fishing, treatment of skins, reindeer herding, picking berries and plants. Connected to this training was also teaching of attitudes and moral norms, songs (joiks) and fairy tales, habits and beliefs. Besides the parents also grandparents and other family members had important roles in upbringing and teaching of children.

The Samis have never developed their own formal education in the form of school institutions with professional teachers. The formal education was introduced by the states, as they gained control over Sami area, and as a means of strengthening this control. School, both for the Samis and for the majority population, was at that time closely connected to the church. In addition there was established several organizations and bodies for mission among the Samis. The oldest cases we know when some Samis have got formal schooling, are from the 17th century in Sweden and the beginning of the 18th century in Norway.

From the start, there was a dispute within the church and the state authorities concerning whether in the education/training of the Sami should be used Sami language or just the official state language. For some periods the Sami language was used considerably, and a few books were published in Sami, mostly translated religious literature. During other periods the policy was that the Sami language should be eradicated, and that the Sami people should be christianized and «civilised» by using an official state language.

This education was of a totally different type than the Sami training from before. Firstly, the education had very little to do with the daily life of the Samis. The main subjects in the school were Christian religion, reading and writing, and this was a type of knowledge that was og little use in practical life. When the education was carried out in a foreign language, it involved a lot of learning by heart, and very little real understanding.

For several hundreds of years Norway was under Denmark and later Sweden, while Finland was under Sweden and later Russia. This had also its special effects on the Sami areas. It affected the schools in such a way that often the language of education was different from the language spoken by the majority of the people in the neighbouring area. In Norway the written language was Danish up to the late 19th century, and much later than this, the written language was strongly influenced by Danish. In areas where the nearest neighbours to the Samis were speaking Finnish, the school language could be Swedish. Because of this, a considerable number of the Samis were neither educated in their mother tongue, nor in their second language, but in a third or fourth language which they seldom met outside the school.

Educational policy has played an important part of the official policy of the various state governments regarding the Sami people. Up to the last decades, this has been based on Sami culture being considered as primitive, and that the Sami people were on a lower stage of development, and this could only be raised to a higher level by adopting the majority society’s language, culture and religion. Racist attitudes were obvious, both among governmental powers, in science, in the schools and among the majority population. As a consequence a considerable part of the Samis lost their language, merged with the majority population, and many even denied their Sami identity.

These conditions led to a clash of interests between the Samis and the school system. The school was considered to be of no use for daily life, and not only that, it was often seen as a direct hindrance to the kind of training that the young generation needed, which they could only achieve in the family/daily situation. The schools for the Samis were often boarding schools, and the pupils had to live apart from their families for most of the year. An antagonism was thus developed against the school, both by pupils and by their parents, and most of the pupils had got more than enough of school when the compulsory school was complete. An example of this is that when the compulsory schooling in Norway was extended from 7 to 9 years, there were only two municipalities in Norway where was registered reluctance to this among a majority of the population. These were the two municipalities where the percentage of Samis in the population are the highest (Guovdageaidnu and Kárášjohka).

In Sweden, special «nomad schools» were established for the children of the Sami reindeer herders. Other Sami children, however, went to ordinary Swedish schools. The nomad schools had a reduced curriculum and shorter school year than other schools. In the 1970s they were renamed Sami schools. Then they got the same curriculum and the same school year as other schools in Sweden, and they started admitting also Sami pupils which were not children of reindeer herders. From the early 1900 to the 1970s all the education in the nomad schools was carried out in Swedish. There was no education carried out in the Sami language in Sweden, neither in the primary nor the secondary school, until the Swedish Parliament, Riksdagen, in 1976 decided on the right to «home language education» for immigrant children and language minorities.

In the post-war period a change of attitude has taken place towards the Sami people and partly towards other minorities. No longer is the objective for the states to eradicate Sami language and culture. On the contrary, there is a laid down objective to preserve these, and to arrange for the Sami people to develop their own language, culture and business activities. Sami has been brought back as a topic and partly as a language of education in schools. However, the education of Sami pupils still suffer from the long term effects of a period of Norwegianizing, Swedification, Finnification and Russification through:
- severe lack of teachers who can teach in Sami language and Sami topics
- lack of textbooks and other material
- teaching plans, organization of the school day and the school year, and the methods of education are based on the requirement of the greater society, and not the Sami society.

 The education of Sami pupils is today carried out partly in special Sami schools and partly within the ordinary school system. In the primary school there are altogether slightly less than 1000 pupils with Sami as a first language, and slightly more than 1000 pupils with Sami as a second language. A majority of the pupils with Sami as a first language are educated fully or partly in Sami as the medium of instruction, however in certain schools the Samis meet their own language only when being taught the Sami language. In Norway the Sami children are taught with Sami as the medium of instruction in all the 10 years of primary school.. In Sweden and Finland they are only offered Sami as the medium of instruction for the first 6 years of the 9 years of primary school.

 Norway and Finland have for some years had laws about the official status of the Sami language, and Sweden got a similar law in 1999. In Norway the language rules is a part of the Sami Act, which was decided in 1987. The language rules, however, were added in 1990. The Act states that the Sami and Norwegian languages are of equal status, within 6 municipalities, all in the North Sami Area. In these municipalities there is a right for inhabitants to get service in the Sami language, both spoken and written. Also two county administrations and some state institutions have the duty to give service in the Sami language. Later this area has also been decided as the area for use of the Sami curriculum in primary school.

 Sami curriculum, in most subject areas, has been in use in primary school education in Norway since 1988. In connection with the 1997 primary educational reform the Department of Education considered abolishing the Sami curriculum and introducing a national curriculum for the whole country. After demands were made by Sami schools, Sami educational board, and the Sami Parliment this idea was dropped and the Sami curriculum was upheld under the primary school education reform of 1997. The Sami curricula are based on the same modules as the Norwegian ones, this has raised some criticism among Samis as some hold the view that they resemble the national curricula too much. In secondary schools there has also arisen a demand for Sami curriculum. This question is now being considered under the evaluation process of the reform in the secondary schools. (Reform 94) This evaluation is planned to be completed within March of 2000. The introduction of a Sami curriculum in secondary education would have far reaching consequences also for adult education.

 In comparison Finland does not have any Sami curricula. However the national curricula are much less specific, the idea being that they are developed more at a local level, within the municipalities or schools.

 A central factor within adult education is the Sami secondary schools. Of these there are two in Norway, and one in Finland, Sweden and Russia. In these schools some of the subjects and courses are taught incorporating both Sami topics and language, but generally they follow the national curriculum and the national language is the medium of instruction. In Norway, Sweden and Finland there are also some other secondary schools offering Sami language.

 There is only one college applying Sami in its educational programme and that is Sami allaskuvla / Sami college. The college is in Guovdageaidnu in Norway, but students from the other countries can apply there. Other colleges and universities offer some degree of both Sami topics and language.

 At a national level there are established public organizations for Sami education. The most important are:
 Norway: Sámi oahpahusráđđi / Samisk utdanningsråd - (Sami education council).
 Sweden: Sámeskuvlastivra / Sameskolstyrelsen (Sami school board)
 Finland: Sámedikki skuvlen- ja oahppamaterialadoaimmahat (The Sami Parliament's school and learning aids centre)
 These institutions will be described later on.

 Despite the fact that ther has been a good deal of progress in the last few decades, with regard to Sami policy and school policies, the Sami people, in all four countries, are still suffering the consequences of policies introduced much earlier:
· The majority of the Sami people cannot speak Sami
· The majority of the Sami people cannot write Sami and find it more difficult to read Sami than the official language of the country in which they live.
· Many Sami have poor language abilities in the majority language of the country where they live.
· Sami people have on average a poorer education than the majority population, both with regard to the number of years of schooling, the benefit of the schooling, and the final marks.
· There has, until recently, been very little formal education in Sami related subjects and industries.
It is necessary to take these factors into consideration when discussing the question of adult education for Sami people.

On 1st of January 2000 the Norwegian prime minister made a speech where he announced that his government will suggest a fund for compensation for the losses the Sami population has suffered because of the former politics of Norwegianization. This statement is principally very important, and the use of the fund will probably be closely connected to strengthening of adult education for the Sami people. The governments of the other states have so far not given similar statements.

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