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Finnish Education System & How to Join

Introduction to Education in Finland
Much is made of the Finnish education system in global media. The Education Index, published with the United Nations' Human Development Index, lists Finland amongst the highest in the world. There can be no doubt that the Finnish education system facilitates effective learning, however I believe the high standard of education here is as much to do with Finns themselves as with the system. From youth, learning is respected and in many cases becomes a lifetime pursuit; a high proportion of Finns engage in continuing education throughout their lives. Admirable, self-actualising folks!

Legally, the right to education and culture is recorded in the Constitution of Finland. Public authorities must secure equal opportunities for every resident in Finland to get education, including "post-compulsory" education, and to develop themselves irrespective of their financial standing.

All immigrants of compulsory school age (6-17) permanently resident in Finland have the right to receive the same basic education as Finns. Immigrants of all ages are provided with instruction in the Finnish or Swedish language. The objective is 'functional bilingualism'; a command of Finnish or Swedish while maintaining your native language and culture.

After finishing basic education, you can study at a general upper secondary school or at a vocational institution. You can apply to a polytechnic once you have completed a vocational qualification or the general upper secondary school syllabus, and to a university when you have completed a vocational qualification or the general upper secondary school syllabus and the matriculation examination. Some courses are also available in English. Put on your thinking hat, and welcome to the Finnish education system!

The Finnish Education System

Basic Education: In Brief
As of 2015 preschool education has become compulsory in Finland, generally when children reach the age of six. Following preschool begins 'basic education' at age 7. The scope of the basic education syllabus is nine years, and nearly all children complete this by attending comprehensive school. Basic education is free of charge. Textbooks and other materials are free of charge and pupils are offered a free daily meal. In addition, school health care and other welfare services are free to the pupils.

The Education System
The National Agency for Education site includes an overview of the entire Finnish education system, and detailed sections about each level and aspect of the system, including:

  • Education for Immigrants
  • Pre-Primary Education
  • Basic Education
  • General and Vocational Upper Secondary Education
  • Higher Education: Polytechnics and Universities
  • Adult Education
    and more! See:
  • National Agency for Education: www.oph.fi/en

Vocational Education & Training

Vocational qualifications can be completed in school-based Vocational Education and Training (VET), apprenticeship training, or as competence-based qualifications. Information including education providers, application procedures, selection criteria, fields of vocational education, and preparatory education for vocational education can be found at
StudyInfo > Vocational education and training

Requirements and Curricula
The National Agency for Education decides on the requirements for each vocational qualification. These are drawn up in co-operation with employers' organisations, trade unions, the Trade Union of Education, and student unions. Curricula are also defined in the requirements, and most National Qualification Requirements have been translated into English. Find these at the
eRequirements Service: eperusteet.opintopolku.fi

Hyria Education
Hyria Education is a multidisciplinary educational institution offering vocational education and training. Hyria's five main campuses are located in the Hyvinkää and Riihimäki region. The range of services includes basic vocational qualifications, further vocational qualifications and specialist vocational qualifications in 27 different educational sectors. Hyria also provides training alternatives to corporate and community customers.

Hyria's International Activities
Hyria also engages in international activities, focussing on the mutual exchange of students, faculty and staff in cooperation with foreign educational institutions and networks. Possibilities include work placement abroad and faculty/staff development programs.
Hyria: hyria.fi/international-activities

Application Procedures - How to Join the Finnish Education System

Enrolment in Basic Education / Comprehensive School
Basic education (classes 1-9, for 7-16-year-olds) is provided by some 3200 comprehensive schools in Finland. These schools are generally run by local authorities. There are neither exclusive girls' or boys' schools nor a significant private school system in Finland (less than 2% of children go to private schools). As a rule, schools do not select pupils; every pupil can enrol in his or her neighbourhood school or opt for some other school in his or her home municipality.

For information about enrolment in basic education in your area, visit your local authority's website (ex. www.hel.fi, www.turku.fi, www.tampere.fi...) and find the Education > Basic Education section, which will be available in English as well as Finnish and Swedish. Enrolment information &/or contact information will be published there.

Applying for Other Levels of Education
At the National Agency for Education's site StudyInfo you can find information about upper secondary education, vocational studies, and higher education, and apply for studies online. Content includes application dates and deadlines, and information for immigrants. Some higher education studies are available in English.

Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) independently select their students. Applications to degree programmes can be made directly to individual universities or via joint application, which allows you to apply to up to 6 programmes with one application form.
Joint Application information
When applying for studies it is always advisable to confirm the application procedure directly from the educational institution.

University Admissions Pages:

See also: Study in Finland: Student exchange and International study programmes.

Religion in Finnish Schools

Religious Education is mandatory in Finnish schools. Every pupil can receive Religious Education according to his or her own religion if the denomination is registered in Finland, and if there is a minimum of three pupils who belong to that specific denomination.

There are two historically significant churches in Finland: the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and The Finnish Orthodox Church. Religion has traditionally been part of the school curricula; it is treated as one of the undercurrents influencing human culture. Instruction in religion emphasises the pupil's own religious knowledge and readiness to encounter other religions and views, especially spiritual traditions that influence Finnish society. The objective is a general education in religion and philosophy of life which helps the pupil understand the cultural and human meaning of religions, and educates the pupil in ethical living.
Non-religious pupils may study a subject called Life Perspective Studies, which includes ethics, world-view studies and comparative religion.

Religious Education is a mandatory subject because it offers pupils knowledge and experiences from which they obtain materials for building an identity and a world-view, which also establishes a foundation for intercultural dialogue.

National Agency for Education: Core Curricula, Basic Education
This is Finland: Religion Lessons Support Kids' Identities

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