finnish education system

The Finnish education system has enjoyed a lot of ‘buzz’ … and for good reason too. It routinely outperforms the UK, USA and Australia in Maths, Reading and Science and continually ranks highly on the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment).

People may fire out the simple facts such as; shorter schools days and no standardised testing, but the truth is that the system is based on several core principles with the first and most important that equal access to education is a constitutional right to all. Another principle is that the students can cultivate and choose a path that will never lead to a dead end.

In this blog we will look at the 2nd stage of the Finnish Education System, Basic Education.

This stage begins when the child turns 7 years old. Unlike other countries, Finland does not divide education into names such as elementary or primary or junior, instead it offers a single 9 year structured education (FYI, we will go in depth on the New Nordic School curriculum in another blog in the near future). There are 190 school days per year and like the ECEC, in our previous blog, policy makers are given some measure of freedom when it comes to letting teachers and administrators revise and revamp the curriculum to meet the needs of the students.

Creator: Andreas Meichsner
Copyright: ©Andreas Meichsner
Saunalahti school in Espoo, Finland Photo by Andreas Meichsner for Verstas architects

The stated goal for this level of education is to “support pupils growth towards humanity whilst make students ethically responsible member of society and providing them with the knowledge to succeed in life”. The freedom includes aspect such as what tests to give, how to evaluate students and the ability to set daily and weekly timetables.

Such freedom and autonomy can sound scary to parents… but… In Finland teaching is highly respected and professional. Typically teachers hold a masters degree and in fact teachers of Basic Education HAVE TO. 80% of Basic Education teachers also actively participate in a continuation of their professional development, therefore this level of training and development ensures that the Finnish Education System and its educators are surrounded by the “science of teaching”.

The field of educators in Finland widely accept the educational thinking of John Dewey, enhancing student’s access to decision making regarding their own lives and study in school.

You may be thinking that schools are left to their own devices if you have read this far…but… they are not, the Finnish National Agency for Education promotes self evaluation and improvement for both the school and indeed the schools teachers. The Finnish Education System does not implement standardised testing, but they do have a national evaluations of learning outcomes which are sample based and not comprehensive. They are not tied to funding and they are also not used to rank school performance. The evaluation is there to assess the schools qualifications and then provided to administers for development purposes.

And a final thing…school meals are free to all!

In the next blog we will dive into the the next stage of the Finnish education system, Upper Secondary Education.

Who is Global Services in Education (GSE)

Global Services in Education is a company led by education experts. They are proven education leaders who know how to set up and manage international schools. GSE can lead the project from the initial idea to set up and full management. Kindergarten, Primary, Middle and High School, Universities and Adult education.

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Duncan Douglas, Project Manager at Global Services in Education:
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