New national core curriculum for basic education

The new national core curriculum for basic education was introduced for grades 1–6 in all schools beginning on 1 August 2016. The curriculum will be introduced for the higher grades of basic education in steps: the new curriculum will be adapted by grades 7 on 1 August 2017, by grades 8 in 2018 and by grades 9 in 2019. The Finnish National Agency for Education introduced the National core curriculum for basic education in 2014. Education providers have drawn up their own local curricula based on the national core curriculum.


The national core curriculum provides a uniform foundation for local curricula, thus enhancing equality in education throughout the country. The curricula of each municipality and school steer instruction and schoolwork in more detail, taking local needs and perspectives into consideration. If necessary, the local curriculum may also revised later. The aim is that the curriculum serves as an active and flexible support for teaching and school activities.

The national core curriculum is mostly comprised of the objectives and contents described for different subjects which are connected to the description of the policies on underlying values, conception of learning and school culture. The purpose of the curriculum is to enable a reform of school culture and school pedagogy which will improve the quality of the learning process and enhance learning outcomes.

Goal: to secure the necessary knowledge and skills as well as encourage learning

Curriculum reform is intended to ensure that the knowledge and skills of Finnish children and youths will remain strong in the future, both nationally and internationally. In addition, pedagogical guidelines are defined to help schools develop their operating methods in order to increase the pupils' interest in and motivation for learning.

Some of the key goals of the reform include enhancing pupil participation, increasing the meaningfulness of learning and enable every pupil to feel successful. Children and young people are encouraged to take more responsibility for their schoolwork and are given more support in their studies. The pupils set goals, solve problems and assess their learning based on set targets. The pupils' experiences, feelings, areas of interest and interaction with others lay the foundation for learning. The teacher's task is to instruct and guide the pupils into becoming lifelong learners, by taking the individual learning approaches of each pupil into consideration.

Renewing subjects

The national core curriculum is still based on the subjects specified in the Basic Education Act for all grades. The subjects studied in basic education are

  • mother tongue and literature
  • second national language
  • foreign languages
  • mathematics
  • environmental studies
  • biology
  • geography
  • physics
  • chemistry
  • health education
  • religion
  • ethics
  • history
  • social studies
  • music
  • visual arts
  • crafts
  • physical education
  • home economics
  • guidance counselling.

The objectives and content of the subjects have been updated to reflect today's society as well as the knowledge and skills needed in future. Subjects are taught and studied based on the number of lessons specified in the distribution of lesson hours and the objectives set in the curriculum in all grades, and. Each subject is assessed every school year.

The grades in which the instruction of certain subjects were also changed. For example, social studies and second national language are introduced earlier. The freedom to choose optional lessons in artistic and practical subjects is expanded to lower grades. There is also more focus on ICT skills, well-being and daily life management in all subjects.

Transversal competences and subjects

Transversal competences as part of every subject

The new core curriculum places an emphasis on transversal competences in instruction. A changing society demands more and more transversal skills and competences. Therefore it is important that each subject promotes transversal competences.

The aims set for transversal competences include

  • thinking and learning to learn
  • cultural competence, interaction and self-expression
  • taking care of oneself and managing daily life
  • multiliteracy
  • ICT competence
  • working life competence and entrepreneurship
  • participation, involvement and building a sustainable future

The aims of transversal competences are specified in the national core curriculum. Education providers are able to further define them according to their individual areas of emphasis. Transversal competences are always taught, studied and assessed as part of the different subjects.

Changing the ways schools operate

The guidelines for developing school culture are specified in the national core curriculum. The goal is to build a school culture that promotes learning, interaction, participation, well-being and a sustainable way of living. The principles that guide the development of the school culture emphasise the school as a learning community. In addition, an aim to ensure the well-being and safety of every pupil.

Schools must provide opportunities for experimentation, exploration, active learning, physical activity and play. Cultural diversity and language awareness are also key principles that guide the development of the school culture. The use of various languages in the school's daily life is seen as natural, and languages are appreciated.

At least one multidisciplinary learning module a year

Each school year every school must have at least one clearly-defined theme, project or course that combines the content of different subjects and deals with the selected theme from the perspective of several subjects. These are called multidisciplinary learning modules. Schools plan and implement the multidisciplinary learning modules and the topics and duration may vary based on local needs and interests. Pupils participate in planning the modules. The assessment of learning is based on the objectives of the different subjects.


Diversity in pupil assessment

The new curriculum emphasises diversity in assessment methods as well as assessment that guides and promotes learning. Information on each pupil's study progress must be given to the pupil and guardians on a sufficiently frequent basis. Feedback is also given in ways other than reports or certificates.

At the end of each school year pupils receive a school year report that gives a numerical grade for each subject on how well the pupil has achieved the targets set for the school year. To ensure fair assessment, national assessment criteria for the numerical grade eight (“good”) have been defined in every subject for grades 6 and 9.