What is Sivistys?
Sivistys is a Finnish concept with two distinctive definitions:
1) a general societal aim and value; enlightenment
2) a specific type of person who is civilised and well-behaved, who lives in harmony with other people, wider society, and nature, and who can also contribute to the preservation and development of communities, the environment, and humankind in general.
Sivistys―in both definitions of the concept―can be developed within the educational system, starting from home education through the school system, universities and adult and continuing education. However, Sivistys (as an individual characteristic) is not a synonym for trained or educated person.
Sivistys can be―and often is―obtained within non-formal education systems, primarily through informal and self-directed lifelong learning, as a personal development process throughout the lifespan.
In the Nordics and North European countries, these kinds of organised learning opportunities have been provided by both privately and publicly owned institutions of Liberal Adult Education―in Finnish Vapaa Sivistystyö and in Finnish-Swedish Fritt bildningsarbete. In other Nordic countries, the concept is known as Folkbildning.
Defining an English equivalent for this dynamic, evolving, innovative concept and word of Sivistys is complex, often translated as self-formation or self-cultivation. In English-language research literature in this context, the concept and word Sivistys are typically referred to as Bildung, the original German term for education in a broad sense.
Text: The Finnish Lifelong Learning Foundation (2023)