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The Finland K-12 Education System

Education in Finland is free at all levels from pre-school to tertiary education. At pre-primary and primary levels, meals, textbooks, and transportation is free; while at secondary level and tertiary education levels, pupils have to buy their own textbooks.

In Finland, the basic/primary and upper secondary education are managed by the local authorities or joint municipal boards.  The funding is by the local as well as state authorities. 

The Ministry of Education and Culture lays down the education policy and the Finnish National Board of Education implements the policy. The Finnish National Board of Education works with the Ministry of Education to develop the structure and content for early childhood, pre-primary, primary, upper secondary and adult education. 

K-12 Education Levels in Finland

Early Childhood Education and Care

Early childhood comprises day care centres and kindergarten. The main aim is the development and growth of kids. 

Day-care

Most of the kids in Finland go for day care. A fee is charged depending on the duration the kid will spend in day care or the income of the kid’s family. The day care centres are owned and managed by the private care centres or the municipality. Many activities like games, sports, music, art, dance etc. are carried out at the centres, thereby developing basic skills. 

Types of Day care centres:
  • Family day care providers: These take kids into their own homes and take care of them. 
  • Open day care centre:  In open day care centres, kids spend time in their own groups or together with adults. These are free of cost.  
  • Playgroups: The playgroups also provide day care facilities to kids. These are open for a few hours only.

Pre-primary Education

This form of education is free and voluntary. It provides basic skills and knowledge to the kids, and prepares them for comprehensive schools.  Enrollment for pre-school is done in January or February. Pre-school/pre-primary education is organised by the Municipalities.  Kids learn about environment, art, mathematics, religion, language and culture. Everything at pre-school is taught in a playful manner.  Teachers develops separate curriculum for each kid. 
  • Age: 6 years old

Basic Education- Comprehensive School

In Finland, all children receive basic education. It is compulsory to receive this form of education. Children at the age of 7 starts this level of education and it goes on until the age of 16 years. The school curriculum is based on a national core curriculum.
  • Duration: 9 years
  • Grades: 1-9
This education is completed in comprehensive school (In Finnish: peruskoulu; Swedish: grundskola; English: "basic school"). Comprehensive school are run by the local authorities, and comprises:
  •  Primary school (alakoulu) : This school covers grades 1 to 6.
  • Secondary school (ylakoulu): This school covers grade 7 to 9
In comprehensive school, students study a lot of compulsory subjects and during the final grades of primary and secondary school, they can select optional subjects. There are recreational activities for children. Extracurricular art education for children is offered by dance, music, arts and crafts and other institutions.

Types of Comprehensive Schools-
There are schools that specialised in a particular subject like:
  • Art
  • Physical Education
  • Music
  • Language
  • Internationality
  • Special pedagogy 

School Year

The school year is of 190 days between mid-August and early June. Schools in Finland are open 5 days a week, and the minimum number of lessons per week varies between 19 and 30, depending upon the level and number of elective subjects taken.  

Upper Secondary Education

Upper Secondary Education comprises General and Vocational upper secondary education and training. No tuition fee is charged. Education is free. 
  • Age: 16 or 17 years old
Selection Ways and Means: Students are selected on the basic past academic records or grades in their basic education certificate

General Upper Secondary Education

The studies at this level are more theoretical and provide education mainly in humanities and natural sciences. It ends with a national matriculation examination. Few of the upper secondary school are specialised, i.e. they provide education in particular areas, like physical education, music etc. The general upper secondary school prepares students for higher education- Universities or universities of applied sciences. 

Duration: 3 years

Admission Requirement: Students must hold a basic education- school leaving certificate

Application Process: Students can apply for upper secondary schools in a joint application procedure. 

Vocational Upper Secondary Education

This form of education provides studies for a specific vocation.  This level provides basic skills and knowledge required in a particular vocation.  Vocational qualifications can be finished in upper secondary VET, or as competence-based qualification, or apprenticeship training. The competence-based qualifications are finished by adults, and the young learners finish their vocational upper secondary qualification at vocational institutions.  After completing vocational upper secondary education, students can apply for further higher education-Universities or universities of applied sciences. The vocational qualification has 120 credits, consisting of:
  • Vocational subjects: 90 credits
  •  General core subjects: 20 credits 
  • Optional studies: 10 credits
Duration: 3 years

Admission Requirement: Students must hold a basic education- school leaving certificate (comprehensive school)

Application Process: Students can apply for vocational upper secondary schools through a national joint application process.

Fields of study:
Vocational education is provided in eight different fields:
  • Humanities and Education
  • Natural Sciences
  • Culture
  • Natural Resources and Environment
  • Tourism, Catering and Domestic Services
  • Social Services, Health and Sports
  • Social Sciences, Business and Administration
  • Technology and Transport

Grading System

Finland avoids high stake competitive tests, yet tops the list of PISA and rated as one of the best school education systems around the world. Let us see how do an academic grading model of K12 in Finland works.

Comprehensive School

The Comprehensive schools in Finland use 10-point grading scale where 4 is considered as "Fail". The grades below 4 are discarded or termed as weak or fail.

Upper Secondary School

The Upper Secondary Schools in Finland use the same grading mechanism as the comprehensive schools, but the matriculation examination grades are in Latin. The grading system uses bell curve grading.

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