Applied Linguistics

Finnish education system stages and features

The Finnish educational system has as itsmain objective to offer all citizens equal opportunities to receive quality education. The emphasis in education is on learning, not tests or exams.

There are no national tests for students in basic education. The only national exam is held at the end of high school. Usually, admission to higher education is based on the results of this exam and the entrance exams.

Education in Finland is one of the most successful in the world, it has no tuition fees and its meals are fully subsidized. The Finnish strategy for achieving equality and excellence in education was based on building a comprehensive, publicly funded school system.

Part of the strategy has been to spread out the school network so that students have a school close to their homes. If this is not possible, free transport is provided. Inclusive special education in the classroom and instructional efforts to minimize underachievement are also typical of Nordic education systems.

Another of its most striking features is that students are not required to do their homework after school hours, so they can dedicate time to socializing and leisure activities.

At first glance, if we look at its structure, it can resemble that of any country; however, what differentiates it from others is its way of conceiving students and faculty.

What educational stages make up the Finnish educational system?

Like most educational systems, Finnish is composed according to the Ministry of Education (2008) for pre-school education, basic education (primary and secondary education) and secondary education (which includes technical training) and tertiary education (consisting of universities and polytechnics).

compulsory education

Children are enrolled in compulsory or basic education at the age of seven, which lasts nine years, primary education covers six and secondary education three.

During this basic training period, children will be trained in different subjects that will prepare them for further training.

Unlike other countries, pre-primary education is not mandatory but is conceived as a right to offer a position in the nursery (International Institute for Educational Approaches, 2007).

High school

When they finish basic education, they will continue their training in secondary education.

It is considered non-compulsory and is divided into two: the general, lasting three years (consisting of a final exam) and the professional training, lasting three years, which gives access to practice (OECD, 2003 at the International Institute of Educational Approaches, 2007).

University education

Higher education is offered at universities and polytechnics. If you want to access higher education, you must take a final exam in secondary education or in basic vocational training studies.

Although passing this type of exam accredits entry into higher education, each institute can use the required tests to select students. Finally, please note that both undergraduate and graduate degrees are obtainable. (OECD, 2003 in International Institute of Educational Approaches, 2007).

What languages ​​are spoken?

In Finland, there are two official languages: Finnish and Swedish. So being an officer will receive training and use both at all levels of the education system.

Below, as an outline, we present the Structure of the Finnish Educational System:


At first glance, it may seem like an educational system like any other. What then is one of the most efficient and effective, according to the PISA report? (OECD, 2006 in Enkvist, 2010). Here are some of the characteristics that make this educational system conceived as one of the best in the world (Robert, 2007).


Here are the successful features of Finnish education in terms of students:

1- The importance of the student against the acquisition of knowledge.

The Finnish educational system is characterized by understanding that a student who is happy in the classroom and feels at ease, as he is free to learn at his own pace, will learn the necessary knowledge more easily.

2- A welcoming environment

The Finnish Educational System understands that students need to feel at home when they are at school. That is, its priority is to offer continuity between them and, for that, its installations are conditioned to favor this feeling.

Workspaces are comfortable, hallways are decorated with children’s work, and even the colors are warm. As schools are generally not very big, the tutor and principal know their students.

The relationship between teachers and students is one of familiarity and respect. Teachers are motivated and seek to help their students learn. They can also issue fines ranging from half an hour of relaxation for the misbehaving child to a three-month suspension.

3- Content adapted to the pace of learning

As in many educational systems, before entering the mandatory internship, it is already intended to awaken in children skills such as curiosity. Only in the morning and attractively.

If a child does not keep up with the rest of his classmates, he will be given the opportunity to learn early (6 years old) and, even with parental permission, can leave him until the age of 8 in non-compulsory education until Ready to learn reading.

No child can repeat the course as it is prohibited by law; although this can happen exceptionally. To avoid this, groups of children with this difficulty are created and even sent to help in class.

The schedule is designed to respect biological rhythms. When compulsory school ends at age 16, sessions last 45 minutes and are combined with 15-minute rest periods in which students can do whatever they want.

4- Early detection of special educational needs

The Finnish educational system is characterized by having a system capable of detecting any disorder or difficulty in learning. From an early age in non-compulsory education, students undergo various tests to detect a problem in their learning, if any.

If yes, these children attend primary school in specialized classes, with a ratio of five students and specialized teachers in the same center as the other children.

In the case of minor problems, the total inclusion of the child is done with all the necessary means for this purpose. Specialized teachers are in all centers.

5- An appropriate learning rate

At the compulsory stage (primary and secondary), the number of students per class does not exceed 25, although the norm is that there should be no more than 20. Unlike other countries, there are educational assistants who help the main teacher with both. material as students with special educational needs.

In high school, there is one advisor for 200 students. This allows you to serve everyone efficiently and effectively. All present in the same center and must be visited twice a year by each student.

6- Motivated students

Students often work in teams or alone. While the faculty, as another resource, is dedicated to motivating them to participate and remain active in the activities they undertake.

The centers stand out for having shelves full of books, as well as projectors, computers, televisions… Students are constantly encouraged to use everything they can to build knowledge.

7- Freedom of choice

In Finland, students can choose progressively and in relation to their maturity. In basic education, for example, the language you want to learn or optional or optional subjects.

They can choose their training, developing their autonomy and sense of responsibility for their studies. This broad autonomy that high school students benefit from prepares them for further training.

8- Evaluation system that motivates

Students are not graded using numbers or grades. At 9 years old, it is true that they undergo an assessment, but this has the characteristics described above. So there is no assessment up to 11 years.

Therefore, as there are no assessments, each student can learn at their own pace without tension. Finland opted for the curiosity that characterizes children, so evaluating would be a mistake.

Grades appear as age 13 and are maintained using grades 4 through 10. At some levels there are exams every six weeks. The evaluation is, therefore, guided by the evaluation of what the student knows, what stimulates and motivates the student.


After seeing how Finland approaches the education of its students, we will look at the keys to success for its teachers:

9- Socially valued profession

Although work in education is as remunerated as in other European countries, the teaching profession is highly valued by society.

This respect arises because of the importance the country attaches to its education and the feeling that teachers are experts. The teachers feel that they are in the service of the children, so there is an initial motivation.

10- Rigorous selection

The disciplinary and theoretical competences are considered, but also the concept of education that they trained in their craft, in addition to the knowledge they have about childhood.

Classroom teachers, in addition to having experience as assistants for three years, must take a matriculation exam. Once they have it, they can appear at the college of education they choose. Subsequently, they will undergo different tests and interviews.

Teachers specializing in a subject should obtain a master’s degree in a subject and study pedagogy for one or two years. To enter the university you must pass the same tests as the previous ones.

When they already have the diploma, they need to find a job and, for this, the municipalities are responsible for recruiting from the centers. Both directors and participating committees can influence the decision based on their projects and needs.

11- Quality teaching materials

Faculty have a range of materials ready to use in their classrooms. Unlike other countries, classes are comfortable and spacious, equipped with multimedia material.

12- Freedom to teach

Finnish teachers have authentic pedagogical freedom, as well as autonomy to teach. Therefore, they are motivated in their daily lives.

13- Relationship with universities

The faculty is associated with the university as they participate in training students who are being trained as teachers and even intervene at the university if necessary.

14- Continuous recycling

Teachers are regularly trained to give a quality education to their students in schools. This training can be of your own free will or suggested by the directors of the centers through dialogue.

In addition, the State conducts in-service training programs in areas that are necessary or of great importance.

Professionals can also apply for funding to enhance their training. From what was said above, educators are understood as an important part of education, so that special importance is given to their training (Ministério da Educação e Cultura, 2013).

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