Average group sizes in basic education in Finland below the OECD average

Current issues Basic education Statistics
Average group sizes in basic education in Finland have for a long time been below the OECD average. This is the case also in 2017, according to this year’s Education at a Glance that was published in September.
Students writing at their desks

In Finland the average group size was 19.6 pupils at the primary-level of basic education. In the upper grades (lower secondary level) the average group size was 19. The corresponding OECD averages were 21 and 23. 

Class sizes in the neighbouring countries are also smaller than the OECD average and differences between countries small. Average class size was smallest in Estonia and biggest in Denmark. In Finland and Estonia the class size decreases at lower secondary level, whereas it increases in most other Nordic region countries and in OECD at this level. 

Graphs: Average class size in basic education 2017

Average class size in basic education 2017. OECD Education at a Glance. Table D2.1

When comparing class sizes, it should be kept in mind that class or group size can be rather theoretical. In Finland and many other countries instruction is today organised flexibly and class size can vary substantially depending on the subject and organisation of groups and teachers’ work as well as support for pupils. 

Finland has invested in reducing group size in pre-primary and basic education 

For some years additional subsidies to schools have been available for reducing groups size. It is considered important in order to improve the discipline and learning results as well as enabling teachers to focus more on instruction and learning. This subsidy can be used for example for dividing big groups  and hiring resource teachers, who support the classroom teachers.

Teachers around the world want smaller classes

According to OECD TALIS 2018 (Teaching and Learning International Survey) published in June, teachers generally felt that they have to spend too much time on discipline in the classroom. Finnish teachers reported that there are frequently incidents of bullying and threat. Also teachers in New Zealand, Malta, Belgium and South Africa reported similar high level of such incidents.

In TALIS 2108 teachers were asked what they would prioritise in spending. The majority, 65 %, thought that the priority should be on reducing class sizes by recruiting more staff.