Non-human animals in Finnish worldview education textbooks



worldview education, non-human animals, religion, textbooks, discourse analysis, Finland, comprehensive school grades 1-2


Education plays a key role in ethical development, and worldview education emphasizes ethical questions. Ethical discussions within education about the treatment of non-human animals are urgently needed. In Finland, worldview education is a compulsory subject, introduced to students from the first year of school. In this study, we turn to Finnish educational material on worldview instruction groups for Lutheran, Orthodox and Islam religion and for the secular subject Culture, Worldview and Ethics for grades 1-2 to ask how non-human animals, and the relation between humans and non-human animals, are portrayed. The article provides a Finnish perspective on animal ethics in worldview education. Through discourse analysis, we examine how humans’ relations with non-human animals are presented in educational materials. We find a dominant discourse of human-animal separation, where humans are portrayed as capable of thinking and feeling, in contrast to non-sentient animals. Non-human animals are presented as utility animals that supply human needs, being used for labour and for food, constructing the consumption of non-human animals as food as natural. We discuss the challenging intertwined discourses of care, protection and utility of non-human animals and call for a stronger focus on animal ethics within worldview education.


Pia Mikander, University of Helsinki

Pia Mikander, PhD, is a university lecturer in history and social studies didactics at the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Helsinki. Her fields of research include democracy, active citizenship and anti-racism in education.  

Harriet Zilliacus, University of Helsinki

Harriet Zilliacus, PhD, title of Docent, is a university lecturer at the Faculty of Educational sciences at University of Helsinki. Her research focuses on sustainability education with questions on worldviews and the possibilities for transformative change through policy development, education and learning. Previous research covers multicultural and multilingual education and arts-based qualitative research methods.

Lili-Ann Wolff, University of Helsinki

Lili-Ann Wolff, DEd, is an associate professor in environmental education at the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki. In addition to education, Wolff has degrees in science and philosophy. Her research interest is transdisciplinary and critical, including educational issues related to nature and sustainability from philosophical, political, social, and practical teaching and learning perspectives.

Arto Kallioniemi, University of Helsinki

Arto Kallioniemi is a professor of religious education and vice dean at the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Educational Sciences. He has conducted research in teacher education, worldview education and education for diversity and pedagogical leadership. He also holds a UNESCO Chair (values, dialogue and human rights).