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Education System of Finland

Finland, also known as Republic of Finland, is located in northern Europe and the neighbouring countries are Russia, Sweden and Norway. Finland is a member of the EU (European Union) where it represents the Nordic democracy as well as their culture and lifestyle. Helsinki is the capital of Finland. 

In Finland one and all have the right to free basic/elementary education. Also, there is no tuition fee charged in general and vocational upper secondary education, and in higher education institutions- universities and polytechnics. Education is mainly financed by the Government as well as the local authorities jointly. The Government and the Ministry of Education and Culture create and execute the education policy.

At pre-primary and basic/primary educational levels, the everyday meal, textbooks, and transportation for pupils staying far away from the school are free for the parents. At secondary education, free meal is being provided to the students, while at the higher education level, meals are subsidised by the state. Adult education in Finland is the only form of education for which candidates are required to pay the fees.

Finnish Educational Background

In 1860, the public education started in Finland. Between 1856 and 1866, mandatory folk schools were developed along with the private secondary schools.  The formation of these folk schools permitted students without a rich background or with Finnish as a mother tongue access to education.
In 1866, a national school system, independent of the Church was established and in 1869, a Supervisory Board of Education was set up under the Ministry of Education to manage and oversee the school system in Finland. In the 19th century, vocational education started to develop in Finland. 
In 1917, Finland became independent. Education extended to all citizens and to all parts of the country.  In 1919, an obligation was set to provide free education at general compulsory education and at a basic level. In 1921, general compulsory education was stipulated by law.
Up to 1970s, compulsory education was offered in the 6-year folk school. After completion of 4 years of folk school, students would go to the secondary school, which was split into the 5-year lower secondary school and the 3-year upper secondary school. A nine-year compulsory education, called as the comprehensive school was initiated in the 1970s on the basis of the folk school and lower secondary school.
After the Second World War, there was an expansion of higher education. The network of universities expanded. In the 1990s, a professionally oriented sector of higher education was started along with the university higher education.

Finnish Educational Statistics:

Primary Education

In Finland, a total of 540,500 students attended comprehensive schools education in 2013 that increased by 0.2 per cent from the year before.

Upper Secondary General Education

In Finland, the upper secondary general schools had 105,900 students in 2013.

Vocational Education

In Finland, Vocational education had 313,600 pupils in 2013, out of which 171,300 study in curriculum-based vocational education, 67,400 in preparatory initial vocational education, and 74, 900 in further and specialist vocational education.

University Education

About 14,600 higher university degrees were awarded in 2013 and 13,200 lower university degrees were given. 
1,700 doctors graduated in 2013. 30,300 degrees were awarded by Universities in 2013. 

Polytechnic Education

About 24,800 degrees were given by polytechnics in 2013.

Source: http://www.stat.fi/til/kou_en.html 

Education System of Finland

The Finland educational system comprises:

Pre-primary Education: This lasts for one year and is voluntary 

Primary/Basic Education: This lasts for 9 years and is compulsory.  Also called as comprehensive school

Upper Secondary Education: It comprises of vocational education and training and general education

Higher Education: It is provided by the universities and universities of applied sciences, UAS or Polytechnics. 

Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC)

The Early Childhood Education and Care in Finland comprise pre-primary education. The municipalities are in charge of early childhood education in Finland. Kids are taught in a playful way.

Pre-primary Education

Pre-primary education is organised in day care centres. The Pre-primary education is voluntary in Finland and is for six-year olds. 

Day Care: In Finland, day care is available to kids under school age. There are day care centres, day clubs, family day care, or open day care centres for kids in Finland. These centres are either owned by the private day care centres or the municipality.

Primary Education (In Finnish: peruskoulu; Swedish: grundskola, "basic school")

Primary education in Finland begins at the age of 7 and ends at the age of 16. Comprehensive school provides a nine-year compulsory education with a voluntary tenth year for all school-age kids, starting at the age of 7.

Secondary Education

Secondary education in Finland is offered by general upper secondary schools and vocational schools for pupils between the age group 16-19.  Students are selected on the basis of past academic performance through a national joint application system.

General Upper Secondary Education

It prepares students for the Finnish matriculation examination. Students who pass the examination are qualified to apply to higher education institutions in Finland.  

Vocational Education

This education develops work-related skills and prepares students for specific profession. 

Higher Education

The Higher Education in Finland is provided by the Universities and Polytechnics. 

Finnish Higher Education Institutions

Universities (yliopisto; universitet): Emphasise on academic education and provides Bachelor’s (3 years), Master's (2 years), licentiate and doctoral degrees (4 years).

Universities of Applied Sciences-UAS, or polytechnics (ammattikorkeakoulu,yrkeshogskola, or AMK/YH): Offers vocational education and promotes applied research. The UAS offers Bachelor’s (3.5-4 years) and Master’s (1 – 1.5 years) degrees. 

All higher education study are expressed as ECTS credits (European Credit Transfer System). One year of full-time study is equivalent to 60 credits.

Adult Education

Adult education in Finland is offered by the universities and universities of applied sciences or polytechnics, public and private vocational institutions, sports institutions and music institutes, adult education centres and summer universities, and adult upper secondary schools.  
Adults can study for a general education certificate, a vocational qualification, or modules covered in these. 

Special Needs Education

The Special needs education is provided mainly in mainstream education. All students of compulsory school age have the right to special needs education.  Special needs education is also offered in upper secondary education. In vocational education and training, pupils in need of special needs education are provided with an individual education scheme that includes qualification details, support measures and requirements. 

Admission Requirements

The admission requirements and procedure vary depending upon the level of education and educational institution. The educational institutions independently carry out their admission process. 

General Admission Process

  • Select the programme/course of your choice
  • Fill out an application and submit it along with the required documents
  • Sit for an entrance examination (if required)
The higher education institutions take the final call on the basis of the predefined selection criteria.  

Language Requirements

English Language Proficiency

In Finland, TOEFL and IELTS scores are accepted.



The minimum test score needed varies depending on the degree programme.There are other English language tests scores also accepted in Finland. 

Students who have finished their past education in English may be exempted from the language test requirement depending upon their nationality. EU/EEA country nationals fall under this category. 

Entrance Examination

In Finland, the entrance examination is required for admittance into a Bachelor degree program. In a few Master’s programme, students are required to submit a GMAT score.  To know more about the entrance examination, contact the Admission Office of the concerned higher education institution. 

Student Financial Aid

Financial aid is available to students. It consists of-
  • Study grant (opintoraha)
  • Housing supplement (asumislisa)
  • Government Guarantee for student loans (opintolainan valtiontakaus)
The following students are eligible to receive student financial aid-
  • Students studying in an upper secondary school 
  • Students studying in university of applied sciences-UAS 
  • Students studying in a higher learning institute
To know more about Student Financial Aid, click here
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