One of the aspects for which Finland stands out in the world is due to the education offered to its citizens. This is characterized by being free and accessible to all, by the involvement and participation of students in the classroom, and by the personalization of education.
The Finnish education system
Education in all Finnish educational centres develops similarly so that all students finish their studies with the same knowledge and on time, regardless of the centre they attend.
Being free and having a general curriculum for the entire country is intended to ensure that everyone can access quality education, regardless of income and family circumstances.
The educational system is divided into 5 stages: early childhood education, preschool education, comprehensive education, upper secondary education and higher education.
Early childhood education in Finland
Early childhood education is organized in kindergartens. Children attend the centre at least 20 hours a week, although it may be longer if the parents work or study. In addition, there are playgrounds where children go with their parents, making them participate in their child’s early education.
The objective in this formative stage is to help the development and well-being of children, teaching them social skills and manual skills, among others. Special support is also offered to children whose native language is not Finnish or Swedish to learn it and those who need special education.
The municipalities are in charge of organizing early childhood education, although there are also private centres. All early childhood education centres have teachers and caregivers specialized in this educational level.
Preschool education in Finland is received one year before compulsory schooling, usually when children turn 6 years old. This is organized by the municipalities, so it does not have any extra cost for families.
This training takes place for a whole year from Monday to Friday on four-hour days. In addition, if the parents work or study, the children can continue to attend their early childhood education centre.
Preschool education enables children to learn useful knowledge, such as letters, that they will need from the following year when they start school. As with early childhood education, special help is offered to children who do not speak Finnish or Swedish.
Finnish comprehensive education begins when you turn 7 years old. This educational level is mandatory for all children who reside in the country permanently. Basic education consists of nine courses and is terminated when the child completes all levels or after 10 years have elapsed since it began.
The municipalities are in charge of basic education, so it has no cost for families. Children attend the centre about 20 hours a week during the first years and, over the years, the number of hours increases.
All teachers have a university master’s degree. Basic education teachers have a specialization in pedagogy. For their part, the teachers of the last three years are specialized in the subject they teach at the school.
It is quite common for children to have the same teacher during the first six years of basic education. This favours the teacher to get to know his students better and the educational needs that each one of them has.
At this educational level, no exams are taken, except for the ninth year, and the teacher is in charge of evaluating and marking the students based on their progress and development.
Children who have just arrived in Finland receive preparatory education for one year, before entering basic education. In addition, they will be helped to continue learning Finnish or Swedish as a second language. Immigrant adults who have not completed basic education will be able to study it in an adult school.
Upper secondary education
Upon completion of basic education, students must choose between high school and vocational training, the two most common forms of upper secondary education. This choice is made during the ninth grade of basic education.
Upper secondary schools
The upper secondary schools are general in nature and the same subjects are learned as in basic education, although in a more demanding and autonomous way. It lasts between two and four years, depending on the student.
Teaching is offered in Finnish or Swedish, although there are centres that offer training in other languages, such as English, in larger cities.
As with basic education, adults who do not have a high school diploma will also be able to attend this level of education in adult school. They can do it in person or remotely.
Vocational education in Finland has a more practical approach than high school. It lasts for three years and in it, students learn the fundamentals of a profession. After the first three years, students can continue studying for a specialized vocational training degree.
The training can be complemented with internships in which to develop the skills and abilities to carry out the profession.
Upon completion of secondary education, students move on to higher education. In Finland, universities and polytechnics are responsible for offering this level of studies.
Higher studies are free in Finland, provided certain requirements are met. Students who are not citizens of the European Union or a country member of the European Economic Area will have to pay the registration fee.
Universities in Finland
The Finnish university has a more theoretical approach, relying on scientific research. The training lasts three years, which can be extended with a master’s degree up to five years. After obtaining the master’s degree, the student can choose to continue his studies and obtain a doctorate.
Most university study programs are offered in Finnish or Swedish, but some are also offered in English.
Universities of applied sciences
Universities of applied sciences, for their part, have a more practical approach than universities. The studies last between 3 and 5 years and include professional practices. It is possible to obtain a long-cycle degree after obtaining three years of work experience in the same field as the studies completed.
Key points of education in Finland
Finnish education is well known worldwide, and many countries have tried to copy its model, but what is this model based on? Some key points explain the success of the Finnish educational model and why other countries have tried to imitate it.
1. The importance of play and rest
The Finnish educational system takes into account the play and rest of the student, without focusing solely on study and education. Children do not start school until they are 7 years old and their previous education is based on play and walks.
During the first years of early childhood education, children only have about 3 or 4 classes a day with breaks between each of them and to eat. Also, the children do all the work in the classroom, so they don’t take homework with them.
2. The teachers’ working hours
The preparation of the classes is included in the teachers’ working hours. Thus, teachers’ number of class hours is lower than the rest of the countries.
They dedicate this difference in teaching hours to prepare future classes and organizing, researching or collaborating with their fellow teachers.
3. Education is public and free
Education in Finland is compulsory and free for ages 7 to 16. Public centres teach it at no additional cost to families. There is also no payment for books or school supplies.
In addition, all children receive a hot meal a day at school and, if they live more than 5 kilometres from the centre, the municipality is in charge of organizing and paying for their transportation.
4. Personalized education
All those students with special needs or learning problems receive special and personalized attention to prevent their difficulties and differences with the rest of their classmates from increasing over the years.
By having a single teacher for the first six courses of basic education, the learning pace is customized for each child, and exams and other tests are avoided. All of this contributes to reducing the rates of school failure.
5. Equitable distribution of public money
State resources are distributed fairly among the centres. All receive a common base, but there are some distributed supplements according to each centre’s needs. Thus, those who have some shortcomings or needs receive extra support to help them catch up with the rest.
Does Finland have the best education system in the world?
Finland has a very characteristic and different educational system if we compare it with that used by other countries. One of the key aspects is free education. In the Finnish country, all levels are free, including universities, so all citizens can access it regardless of their money.
In addition, the entire society is aware of the importance of quality education for the development and growth of the country. For this reason, teachers are some of the most valued professionals. It is a prestigious profession that has a long and demanding preparation.
In general, families are also aware of the importance of education and complement it with other cultural activities. Parents also receive help and support from the State to facilitate work-life balance, allowing them to have more time with their children.
The report of the international program for Student Assessment, better known as the PISA report, is one of the most important international studies that serve to validate the educational model of all countries in the world.
The OECD organises this study every 3 years and measures students’ math, science, and reading abilities. It is a quantitative evaluation that provides countries with information to help them improve their educational policies and results.
This report always places Finland at the top of the ranking, along with some Asian countries, such as Hong Kong, Singapore or Japan.
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