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Home-- Finland Education Model

Introduction to Finland Education

Elementary Classroom


  • Finnish classrooms are typically described as learner-centred - As the emphasis on student self-assessment

  • Students are expected to take an active role in designing their own learning activities „

  • Students are expected to work collaboratively in teams on projects, and there is a substantial focus on projects that cut across the traditional subject or disciplinary lines


Education Policy:

Providing equal opportunities for all citizens to high-quality education and training is a long-term objective of the Finnish education policy. The keywords in Finnish education policy are quality, efficiency, equity and internationalization. The basic right to education and culture is recorded in the Constitution. The policy is built on the principles of lifelong learning and free education. Education is seen as a key to competitiveness and well-being of the society.

There is a wide-spread consensus of the main pillars of education policy and the policy is characterized by cooperation and continuity - evolution rather than revolution. A tripartite partnership among Government, trade unions and employer organizations is an integrated part of policy-making. Participation and consultation of a wide range of different stakeholders play a central role in educational reform. Teachers and the Trade Union of Education as their representative are the key players in the development of education. The main objectives and broad lines of the policy are defined at the central level, but the implementation of these is the responsibility of the local level. The main steering document in the Finnish education policy is the Government’s Development Plan for Education and Research.

The main objective of Finnish education policy is to offer all citizens equal opportunities to receive an education. The structure of the education system reflects these principles. The system is highly permeable, that is, there are no dead-ends preventing progression to higher levels of education.

The focus in education is on learning rather than testing. There are no national tests for pupils in basic education in Finland. Instead, teachers are responsible for assessment in their respective subjects on the basis of the objectives included in the curriculum.

The only national examination, the matriculation examination, is held at the end of general upper secondary education. Commonly admission to higher education is based on the results in the matriculation examination and entrance tests.

Governance has been based on the principle of decentralisation since the early 1990s. Education providers are responsible for practical teaching arrangements as well as the effectiveness and quality of the education provided. Local authorities also determine how much autonomy is passed on to schools. For example budget management, acquisitions and recruitment are often the responsibility of the schools.

Polytechnics and universities enjoy extensive autonomy. The operations of both polytechnics and universities are built on the freedom of education and research. They organise their own administration, decide on student admission and design the contents of degree programmes.

Most education and training is publically funded. There are no tuition fees at any level of education. In basic education also school materials, school meals and commuting are provided free of charge. In upper secondary education, students pay for their books and transport. In addition, there is a well-developed system of study grants and loans. Financial aid can be awarded for full-time study in upper secondary education and in higher education.

Teachers in Finland:
  • Enjoy pedagogical autonomy in the classroom 

  • Are considered pedagogical experts 

  • Are entrusted with considerable independence in the classroom.

  • Have decision-making authority as concerns school policy and management 

  • Are deeply involved in drafting the local curricula and in development work. 

  • Have responsibility for the choice of textbooks and teaching methods


Deep Dive:

  • Pupils' learning and well-being of the individual is supported and related instructions have been recorded the nationwide basis for the curriculum. 

  • Both schools and the learning outcomes and assessment of pupils are in the nature of encouragement and support.

  • The aim is to provide information that will help both schools and pupils to develop 

  • There are no national tests of learning outcomes and school ranking lists 

  • Teachers at all levels of education are well trained and strongly committed to their work 

  • All teachers are required to a Master's degree and initial teacher training includes practical teaching training 

  • The teaching profession in Finland is a valued and popular, so students can be chosen the best in young people 

  • In Finland, there is substantial attention to subject-specific pedagogy for prospective primary as well as upper-grade teachers.

Pedagogical Approach
  • The conception of learning, where students own activity and interaction with the teacher, other students and the learning environment is important, is steering the schoolwork, teaching, the organization controls 

  • Student deals with and interprets the received information based on his / her earlier knowledge (constructive pedagogy approach) 

  • Political consensus to educate all children together in a common school system 

  • An expectation that all children can achieve at high levels, regardless of family background or regional circumstance 

  • A single-minded pursuit of teaching excellence 

  • Collective school responsibility for learners who are struggling 

  • Modest financial resources that are tightly focused on the classroom 

  • A climate of trust between educators and the community

Early childhood education and care

All children under school-age have a subjective right to early childhood education and care (ECEC). The municipalities are responsible for arranging the ECEC services, for their quality and supervision. Families can also opt for publicly subsidized private ECEC settings. The Finnish ECEC is based on an integrated approach to care, education, and teaching, the so-called “Educare” model. Learning through play is essential.

The main form of ECEC is daycare organized in daycare centers and in family daycare. The content of ECEC is guided by the National Curriculum Guidelines on ECEC (2018). Other forms of ECEC services include clubs run by the local parishes and other non-governmental organizations and the various forms of open early childhood education activities organized by the municipalities for children and their families. Participation in ECEC is subject to a fee which depends on family income and the number of children. Client fees in municipal daycare cover about 14 percent of the total daycare costs.


Basic education is non-selective

The objective of basic education is to support pupils’ growth towards humanity and ethically responsible membership of the society and to provide them with the knowledge and skills needed in life.

Basic education encompasses nine years and caters for all those between 7 and 16 years. Schools do not select their students. Every student is allocated a place in a nearby school, but they can also choose another school with some restrictions.

All school follow a national core curriculum, which includes the objectives and core contents of different subjects. The education providers, usually the local education authorities and the schools themselves draw up their own curricula within the framework of the national core curriculum.

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Upper secondary education and training

After compulsory basic education school-leavers opt for general or vocational upper secondary education. Both forms usually take three years and give eligibility for higher education. Vocational education and training are popular in Finland, more than 40 percent of the relevant age group starts vocational upper secondary studies immediately after basic education. The biggest fields are technology, communications and transport, and social services, health and sports.

The selection of students for upper secondary school is based on their grade point average for the theoretical subjects in the basic education certificate. Entrance and aptitude tests may also be used, and students may be awarded points for hobbies and other relevant activities.

Vocational qualifications can be completed in upper secondary VET, apprenticeship training, or as competence-based qualifications. The majority of young learners complete their upper secondary vocational qualifications at vocational institutions. Competence-based qualifications are usually completed by adults. 

References and further learning:

  • Finnish education model pedagogical approach - Marianne Matilainen

  • Aho, E., K. Pitkanen and P. Sahlberg (2006), “Policy Development and Reform Principles of Basic and Secondary Education in Finland since 1968”, prepared for the Education Working Paper Series, World Bank, Washington, DC. nland%202006.pdf. „

  • Burridge, T. (2010), “Why Do Finland’s Schools Get the Best Results?” BBC News [Online] 7 April, Retrieved from „

  • FNBE (Finnish National Board of Education) (2008), Education in Finland, FN BE, Helsinki, available at

  • FNBE (2010), Structures of Education and Training Systems in Europe, FNBE, Helsinki, available at se/structures/041_FI_EN.pdf. „

  • Gamerman, E. (2008), “What Makes Finnish Kids So Smart?”, The Wall Street Journal, Feature Article, 29 February. „

  • Gardner, W. (2010), “Are Quality and Quantity Possible in Teacher Recruitment?”, Education Week [Online], 26 February, available at: 10/02/are_quality_and_quantity_possible_in_teacher_recruitme nt.html. „

  • Hargreaves, A., G. Halász and B. Pont (2007), School Leadership for Systemic Improvement in Finland, OECD, Paris, available at „

  • Kupiainen, S., J. Hautamäki, and T. Karjalainen (2009), The Finnish Education System and PISA, Ministry of Education Publications, Helsinki University Print, Helsinki. „

  • Meisalo, V., et al. (2010), ICT in Initial Teacher Training, Country Report: Finland, OECD Publishing. „

  • Ministry of Education, Finland (2008), Education and Research 2007-2012: Development Plan, Helsinki University Print, Helsinki. „

  • Ministry of Education, Finland (2009), Finnish Education System in an International Comparison, Ministry of Education Policy Analyses, Helsinki.

  • OECD (2010), PISA 2009 Results: What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science (Volume I), OECD Publishing. „

  • Sahlberg, P. (2007), “Education Policies for Raising Student Learning: The Finnish Approach”, Journal of Education Policy, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 147-171. „

  • Sahlberg, P. (2006), “Raising the Bar: How Finland Responds to the Twin Challenge of Secondary Education?”, Revista de Curriculum y Formación del Profesorado, Vol. 10, No. 1.

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