Education system

Equal opportunities to high-quality education

The main objective of Finnish education policy is to offer all citizens equal opportunities to receive education. The structure of the education system reflects these principles. The system is highly permeable, that is, there are no dead-ends preventing progression to higher levels of education.

The focus in education is on learning rather than testing. There are no national tests for pupils in basic education in Finland. Instead, teachers are responsible for assessment in their respective subjects on the basis of the objectives included in the curriculum.

The only national examination, the matriculation examination, is held at the end of general upper secondary education. Commonly admission to higher education is based on the results in the matriculation examination and entrance tests.

Governance has been based on the principle of decentralisation since the early 1990s. Education providers are responsible for practical teaching arrangements as well as the effectiveness and quality of the education provided. Local authorities also determine how much autonomy is passed on to schools. For example budget management, acquisitions and recruitment are often the responsibility of the schools.

Universities and universities of applied sciences (UAS) enjoy extensive autonomy. The operations of both UAS and universities are built on the freedom of education and research. They organise their own administration, decide on student admission and design the contents of degree programmes.

Most education and training is publically funded. There are no tuition fees at any level of education. An exception are the tuition fees for non-EU and non-EEA students in higher education, effective from autumn 2016. Most higher education institutions will introduce such tuition fees in 2017, and more information can be found here. In basic education also school materials, school meals and commuting are provided free of charge. In upper secondary education students pay for their books and transport. In addition, there is a well-developed system of study grants and loans. Financial aid can be awarded for full-time study in upper secondary education and in higher education.

Education system in Finland