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You are here: Minority languages → Expert in the Spotlight → Heidi Harju-Luukkainen

Expert in the spotlight in January/February 2013: Heidi Harju-Luukkainen

The expert in the Spotlight feature gives you the chance to interact one-on-one with our Ask the expert-section. The feature also provides interesting and insightful comments regarding the subjects mentioned above, in-depth content and exclusive Q and A’s.

Featured Expert / Area of focus

Heidi Harju-Luukkainen, Ph.D., special education teacher and subject teacher (1977) is working at the University of Helsinki, Department of Teacher Education as a university lecturer. She has a long experience in teaching on different levels. She has also been working among others with research related topics at the Finnish Institute for Educational Research, the Centre for Educational Assessment, Centre for special educational research at Åbo Akademi University and as a specialist for the Finnish Education Evaluation Council in different projects. Her research interests are international assessments, educational outcome, minorities, bilingualism, early childhood education and didactics. She has been working in several national and international projects as manager, specialist and as a researcher and has over 40 national and international publications.  

More information

Face to face with Heidi Harju-Luukkainen

What is your background in the field of regional and minority languages/education/ multilingualism?

I have had the opportunity to work as a teacher in primary and secondary schools for ten years with bilingual or language immersion children. I have also been working for Folkhälsan (Swedish-speaking non-governmental organisation) for eight years with different projects that develop children’s language abilities. After that I have been working mostly with research and research related projects nationally and internationally. In 2010 I was invited to work in the Finnish PISA 2009 team and to be responsible for publishing results concerning the Swedish-speaking students learning outcomes. I am now working with the new Swedish Kindergarten Teacher Education at the University of Helsinki, founded in 2011. I feel really privileged that I have had the possibility to work on the field but also in many research and developmental projects, that are and have been of importance for the Swedish –speaking minority in Finland.

What do you think is the major challenge in your field of work?

There are many challenges in the field of education in Finland. We tend to think that the Finnish educational system gives equal opportunities for all children. From my researcher perspective this is not true. We have a lot to do concerning for example the Swedish-speaking minority’s education. For example in some parts of Finland almost 50 % of the Swedish-speaking personnel working in the field of early childhood education, do not have proper education for their work. We can also find weaker educational outcome in Swedish –language schools in some key competence areas, compared to the Finnish –language ones, in both national and international assessments. We also need much more research evidence and information about the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland for the decision makers. When it comes to Swedish language immersion education the research on that area is still quite modest, and there are many areas in need of development.

What is one of the hottest new projects / items you are working on?

One of the hottest is probably the Finnish PISA 2012 assessment where all 15-year old Finnish children with immigrant background have been assessed for the first time. My responsibility is to conduct research with this material. This I find both challenging but also extremely interesting. I have also edited a book about bilingual schools in Finland together with prof. Liisa Tainio.
This book titled:’ Tainio, L. & Harju-Luukkainen, H. (Eds.) 2013. Kaksikielinen koulu – tulevaisuuden monikielinen Suomi. Tvåspråkig skola – Ett flerspråkigt Finland i framtiden. Suomen kasvatustieteellinen seura. Kasvatusalan tutkimuksia 62’ is to be published by the Finnish Educational Research Association (FERA) in January 2013. I am also involved at the moment with eight different research or developmental projects and many of them have a language or minority perspective. The absolutely hottest new project in my personal life is our third child. She is to be born soon and I know she is going to teach me a few things about bilingualism as well.

Are there any important references such as articles, links, etc. you would like to mention?

Books/articles of current interest:
Tainio, L. & Harju-Luukkainen, H. (Eds.) 2013. Kaksikielinen koulu – tulevaisuuden monikielinen Suomi. Tvåspråkig skola – Ett flerspråkigt Finland i framtiden. Suomen kasvatustieteellinen seura. Kasvatusalan tutkimuksia 62. Link

Harju-Luukkainen, H. 2012. The amount of immersion needed for good results? Evidence from a partial language immersion programme in Finland. In: Global trends meet local needs. Bendtsen, M., Björklund, M., Forsman, L. & Sjöholm, K. (Eds.). Vasa: Åbo Akademi University, Vol. 2012, p. 55-69. 15 p. Reports from the Faculty of Education; 33. Link

Books of current interest available online:
Harju-Luukkainen, H. & Nissinen, K. 2012. Ruotsinkielisen koulun suomen kieltä kotonaan puhuvat oppilaat In: PISA09. Kestääkö osaamisen pohja?. Sulkunen, S. & Välijärvi, J. (eds.). Helsinki: Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriö, p. 78-88. 11 p. Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriön julkaisuja; 2012:12. Link


Harju-Luukkainen, H. & Nissinen, K. 2011. Finlandssvenska 15-åriga elevers resultatnivå i PISA 2009-undersökning. University of Jyväskylä, Finnish Institute for Educational Research.  83 p. Link

Harju-Luukkainen, H. & Nissinen, K. 2011. Åländska 15-åriga elevers resultatnivå i PISA 2009 -undersökningen. Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä, Finnish Institute for Educational Research. 81 p. Link

Links of current interest:



University of Helsinki: Kindergarten teacher education in Swedish

Do you have any questions on these topics?

Ask Heidi

Featured topic

Our focus this month lies on Swedish minority in Finland.