6.1 General context
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The OECD’s PISA 2018 (Programme for International Student Assessment) survey ranked Finnish 15-year-olds among the top performers in reading, maths and science, as it has been in earlier years of the same study. At the same time there are also some worrying facts. The students' negative attitude towards reading causes concern, while the percentage of the low-performing readers has risen, meaning that there are now more young people in Finland whose reading proficiency is too weak for studying and participating in society. The link between students’ socio-economic background and poor performance is also now stronger than it was earlier. But still, and this is probably the most important insight, among the 79 countries who participated, ‘Finland was the only country where both reading proficiency and satisfaction with life were at a high level’, as reported in the Press Release 3rd of December 2019 of Ministry of Education and Culture.
Education and Training Monitor EU analysis, volume 1 2019 offers insight into the level of achievements of the Finnish education system and the needs for its development. It compares the aimed targets in Education and Training in EU members states that are to be achieved before the end of the year 2020. Regarding Finland, the report offered many positive points. First of all, it acknowledges the positive PISA results aforementioned. Compared to many other countries, teaching in Finland remains a ‘prestigious and attractive profession.’ Finland was also the only country where over 50 % of teachers think that their teaching profession is valued in society. The overall appreciation for teachers and their profession has, according to various studies, increased in Finnish society, also during the pandemic. On the other hand, according to Talis (The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey 2018), Finnish teachers' satisfaction with the profession and working conditions has decreased between the years 2013 and 2018, and the pandemic did not change the direction of this development.
Compulsory education in Finland end when a young person reaches the age of 18 or has completed an upper secondary qualification: general upper secondary education and matriculation examination or vocational qualification. The extension in compulsory education became effective in 2021, and it has been one of the largest reforms in Finnish educational system. As a part of the reform of The Act of Compulsory Education the Finnish Government renewed several other acts, such as the Basic Education Act, the Act on General Upper Secondary Education and the Act on Vocational Education. From Spring 2021, all compulsory education students have the obligation to apply for and continue in secondary education, while education organisers have an obligation to supervise the application process and provide needed support.
The share of young people who are excluded from upper secondary education has dropped to a quarter of the previous year's level. According to the monitoring data of the National Agency for Education, 99 % of those young people who finished comprehensive school in the spring of 2021 had a study place at the end of September 2021. For more information, see Youth Wiki/Finland 6.3. Preventing early leaving from education and training (ELET).
As described in Eurydice database/Finland Overview: "Compulsory schooling begins at the age of 7 and lasts for 9 years. It is provided in a single structure system called ‘basic education’. Nearly all children subject to compulsory education complete their basic education. Only about 200 young people drop out or leave basic education without completing the studies annually. At all levels of education every pupil and student has the right to educational support.
Upper secondary education is provided by general and vocational upper secondary schools. The general age to take upper secondary studies is from 16 to 19 years. However, many students are older, especially in vocational upper secondary education.
Tertiary education is provided by universities and universities of applied sciences. The latter are professionally-oriented education institutions.
Adult education is arranged at all levels of the education system. It may lead to qualifications or be related to general self-development. Liberal adult education, in which many young people also participate to have free-time hobbies or during their gap year before applying to tertiary degree education, provided for example by adult education centres and ‘folk high schools’, is quite popular in Finland.
In Finland education is free from pre-primary to higher education and most of it is publicly funded. The core curriculum offered at the national level leaves room for local variations. Local administration and educational institutions play a key role as education providers."
On the borderline of formal and non-formal education are several organisations, which operate as a conjunction of both formal and non-formal education. As described in the National Core Curriculum for Basic Education, schools operate as learning communities, which need dialogue for developing. The Development Centre Opinkirjo is for example active in advancing the quality of the school club activities (more about Opinkirjo see Youth Wiki/Finland 6.7 “Skills for innovation”). Club activities are recognized in the Basic Education Act. Based on the National Core Curriculum for Basic Education “club activities provided outside the lessons support the school’s goals related to education, instruction and guidance” (Finnish National Board of Education 2016, 44).
See also Basic Education in the Arts, in Youth Wiki/Finland 8.5 Developing cultural and creative competences. Also the projects of Youth Academy often support school life.
The Democracy Policy Programme recognises the need for developing democratic education in schools and educational institutions more openly with non-governmental organisations, for example with political parties, see Youth Wiki/Finland 5.7 "Learning to participate" through formal, non-formal and informal learning).
There are no significant country-specific definitions and concepts, concepts related to education and training are rooted in the European discussion.