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The Education System of
Pre-School Education
Basic Education
General Upper Secondary education
Education System Chart
Pre-School Education
• Pre-school education is intended for six-year-olds, who will start their
compulsory education in the following year.
• Participation in pre-school education is voluntary, and it is provided in
day care centres and in pre-school classes operating in connection
with comprehensive schools.
• In Finland, pre-school education means the systematic education and
instruction provided in a day care centre (kindergarten) or a
comprehensive school in the year preceding the beginning of school.
• Subject fields are: language and interaction, mathematics, ethics and
philosophy, environmental and natural studies, health, physical and
motor development and art and culture.
Basic Education
• Basic education is intended for children from seven to sixteen years of
age, and its completion in comprehensive school takes nine years.
• All children permanently resident in Finland are subject to compulsory
education for a period of ten years starting in the year of their seventh
• Basic education is general education provided free of charge for entire
age groups.
• Basic education is governed by the Basic Education Act of 1998
• The broad national objectives and the allocation of time to the
instruction in different subjects and subject groups and to childrens
counselling are decided by the Government. The National Board of
Education decides on the objectives and core contents of instruction by
confirming the core curriculum. Based on these, each provider of
education prepares the local curriculum.
• The network of comprehensive schools covers the entire country.
• For school journeys exceeding five kilometres, transportation is
provided free of charge.
• Teaching groups in basic education are formed according to
year classes.
• During the first six years, instruction is usually given by the class
teacher, who teaches all or most subjects.
• Instruction in the three highest forms is usually in the form of
subject teaching, where different subjects are taught by subject
• Basic education also includes pupil counselling and, if
necessary, special education.
• The basic education syllabus includes at least the following
subjects: mother tongue and literature (Finnish or Swedish), the
other national language (Swedish or Finnish), foreign
languages, environmental studies, civics, religion or ethics,
history, social studies, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology,
geography, physical education, music, visual arts, craft and
home economics.
Features of basic education
no admission requirements
no charges
a nine-year comprehensive school
may include voluntary one-year pre-school education and voluntary
one-year additional education (10th form)
instruction arranged in schools near the home
no official qualification; final certificate granted for acceptable
completion of the syllabus
provides eligibility for all upper secondary education
almost all Finnish children complete comprehensive school
interruption and repeating a form is rare
compulsory education is fulfilled by completing the basic education
General Upper Secondary
• Upper secondary school offers general education for students of about
16-19 years of age.
• It continues the educational task of comprehensive school and gives
students eligibility for all studies at the tertiary level.
• Upper secondary school ends with the matriculation examination.
• Since 1982, instruction in upper secondary schools has been divided
into courses, each consisting of about 38 lessons.
• The broad national objectives and the allocation of time to the
instruction in different subjects and subject groups and to student
counselling are decided by the Government. The National Board of
Education decides on the objectives and core contents of instruction by
confirming the core curriculum. Based on these, each provider of
education prepares the local curriculum. The curriculum must provide
students with individual choices concerning studies, also utilising the
instruction offered by other education providers, if necessary.
• The school year is usually divided into five or six periods. A
separate timetable is drawn up for each period, concentrating on
certain subjects.
• Students' progress and the composition of teaching groups thus
depends on the students' choice of courses.
• Consequently, year classes have been abolished in all upper
secondary schools, which now function without fixed forms
Upper secondary school studies consist of compulsory,
specialisation and applied courses.
• All students must complete the compulsory courses. Schools
must provide specialisation courses for students to choose from.
• Each student is responsible for completing a sufficient number
of courses. Applied courses may be either further studies in
subjects already studied or other subjects.
• The provision of these courses can be decided independently by
each school. They can also be offered in co-operation with other
educational institutions, such as vocational or music institutions.
• The matriculation examination concluding upper
secondary school studies is drawn up nationally, and
there is a centralised body to check its individual
tests according to uniform criteria. T
• here are four compulsory tests in the matriculation
examination: mother tongue, the other national
language, foreign language and either mathematics
or general studies test. In addition, candidates may
voluntarily take optional tests.
• Tests are arranged each spring and autumn, and
candidates may complete the examination either
entirely in one examination period or in parts within a
maximum of three different examination periods.
Features of upper secondary school
• the admission requirement for the upper secondary school is the
completion of comprehensive school
• upper secondary schools select their students mainly on the basis of
previous study record
• in practice application takes place through the national joint application
• upper secondary school studies primarily aim at further studies at the
tertiary level
• progress in studies is individual
• syllabus planned for three years
• possible to finish in two years, maximum four years
• students usually 16-19 years of age
• upper secondary school instruction also provided for adults, adjusted to
their circumstances
• more than half of each age group complete upper secondary school
Vocational Education
Initial vocational education builds on the basic education syllabus and
provides 2-3-year instruction in almost all fields of working life.
However, there is a decision to extend the duration of all initial
vocational education to three years by the year 2001.
Initial vocational education is also open to upper secondary school
leavers. The duration of studies is 0.5-1 year shorter for them, due to
the credits transferred from upper secondary school studies.
There are 75 initial vocational study programmes.
These yield extensive basic vocational skills for various assignments in
their field and, in addition, more specialised expertise in one sector of
the study programme.
A three-year vocational qualification provides general eligibility for
higher education.
• The Government decides on the general objectives of vocational
education and training, the general structure of the study
programmes and on the common studies.
• The Ministry of Education decides on the details and scope of
the study programmes.
• The National Board of Education issues the national core
curricula determining the objectives and core contents of the
• Based on these, each provider of education prepares its
• The Ministry of Education grants licences to organise vocational
education, determining the education providers' fields of study
and total number of students, etc.
• Within the framework of the licence and the confirmed structure
of the study programmes, the education providers may focus
their education as they see fit, allowing for the local and regional
economic and working life needs.
Features of initial vocational education
the admission requirement is the completion of the basic education syllabus
education providers mainly select their students on the basis of previous study
record, but they may also arrange entrance or aptitude tests and take the
applicant's previous work experience into account
application for studies takes place through the national joint application procedure
the studies primarily aim at the acquisition of the vocational skills necessary in
working life; in addition, the three-year programmes give general eligibility for
further studies at universities and other institutions of higher education
opportunities for individual progress in the studies have been increased
initial vocational qualifications can be taken in institutional education, as
apprenticeship training or through competence-based examinations
development objectives: the proportion of training at workplaces will be increased
in institutional education (on-the-job training periods to be attached to the
programmes); apprenticeship training will be expanded; initial vocational
programmes will include a practical demonstration to ensure that the objectives of
vocational studies have been achieved
instruction is also offered to adults, adjusted to their circumstances (competencebased examinations: initial vocational qualifications, further and specialist
vocational qualifications)
Polytechnic Education
• The Finnish polytechnic system was built during the 1990's to
create a non-university sector in higher education. It is founded
on the institutions which previously provided post-secondary
vocational education and which have been developed to form a
nationwide network of regional institutions of higher education,
i.e. polytechnics. In the autumn of 2001, there were a total of 29
• Polytechnics provide instruction for expert functions in the
sectors of natural resources, technology and communications,
business and administration, tourism, catering and institutional
management, health care and social services, culture, and the
humanities and education.
• Studies leading to a polytechnic degree take 3.5-4.5 years.
• The Ministry of Education confirms the degree programmes, but
the curricula are independently decided by the polytechnics.
Features of polytechnics
• the admission requirement is the completion of a vocational
qualification or the matriculation examination
• polytechnics select their students independently; application
takes place through the national joint application procedure
• polytechnic studies lead to higher education degrees
• the scope of education is 3.5-4.5 years; students have the right
to exceed this by one year
• all degree programmes include an on-the-job training period of
at least 20 credits (half the academic year)
• instruction is free of charge
• education providers are municipal or private; the State does not
maintain polytechnics
• close research and development co-operation with the regional
working life
University Education
• There are twenty universities in Finland: ten multidisciplinary universities,
three universities of technology, three schools of economics and business
administration and four art academies. The network of universities covers
the different parts of the country and provides a student place for almost
one third of the age group. All universities are owned by the State.
Academic degrees in the military field can be taken at the National
Defence College falling under the administrative field of the Ministry of
• The decision-making system of the universities is highly independent.
Their operation is prescribed by the Universities Act and Decree.
Moreover, their activities are regulated by field-specific decrees on degree
systems, governing the field-specific educational duties as well as the
definitions, structures, scope, objective and contents of degrees.
Universities and their faculties decide on the degree regulations and
• Universities select their own students independently.
• Various types of entrance examinations form a central
part of the selection process.
• The total intake of the universities guarantees a student
place for about a third of the relevant age group.
• The number of university students has increased by
some 40 % during the last ten years. In total, there are
about 152,000 students.
• The number of postgraduate students is about 20,000.
• The annual number of degrees taken amounts to about
17,000, of which Master's degrees account for almost
12,000 and doctorates for more than 1,000.
• The average duration for completing a Master's degree
is about 6.5 years.
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