Administration and funding

How are schools controlled by the national level administration?

The Finnish national education administration is organised at two levels. Education policy is responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Culture. A national agency, the Finnish National Board of Education, is responsible for the implementation of the policy aims. It works with the Ministry to develop educational objectives, content and methods for early childhood, pre-primary, basic, upper secondary and adult education. The Finnish National Board of Education determines the national core curriculum for pre-primary and basic education as well as the qualification requirements for vocational education and training. These that contain the objectives and core contents of different subjects, as well as the principles of assessment, special needs education, pupil welfare and educational guidance. The national core curricula and qualification requirements are renewed approximately every ten years.

Local administration is the responsibility of local authorities, most commonly municipalities or joint municipal authorities. Local education providers are responsible for practical teaching arrangements as well as the effectiveness and quality of its education. These make the decisions on allocation of funding, local curricula and recruitment of personnel. The municipalities have also the autonomy to delegate the decision-making power to the schools. The schools have the right to provide educational services according to their own administrative arrangements and visions, as long as the basic functions, determined by law, are carried out. In many cases for example budget management, acquisitions and recruitment is the responsibility of the schools.

If you have no inspections, how do assure quality?

In Finland school inspections were abolished in the early 1990s. The ideology is to steer through information, support and funding. The activities of education providers are guided by objectives laid down in legislation as well as the national core curricula and qualification requirements. The system relies on the proficiency of teachers and other personnel.

In Finland education is evaluated locally, regionally and nationally. There is strong focus on both self-evaluation of schools and education providers and national evaluation of learning outcomes. National assessments of learning outcomes in basic education are done regularly, so that there is a test every year either in mother tongue and literature or mathematics. Other subjects are evaluated according to the evaluation plan of the Ministry of Education and Culture. From the schools’ perspective, the evaluations are not regular as they are sample-based. The main aim of the national evaluations of learning outcomes is to follow at national level how well the objectives have been reached as set in core curricula and qualification requirements. Consequently, the results are not used for ranking the schools.

What is the reason behind the small differences between schools?

One of the basic principles of Finnish education is that all people must have equal access to high-quality education and training. The same opportunities to education should be available to all citizens irrespective of their ethnic origin, age, wealth or where they live. The current thinking in Finland is that the potential of each pupil should be maximised. Therefore educational guidance is seen as essential to help every pupil and student to perform as well as possible in their studies. Guidance and counselling is seen as the work of all education personnel. Today all pupils and students have the right to educational support.

All Finnish teaching personnel are highly educated and teaching is seen as an attractive career choice in Finland. Teachers in basic and general upper secondary education are required to hold Master’s degree. Also teachers in vocational education and training have to hold a higher education degree. Teachers are recognised as keys to quality in education and therefore continuous attention is paid to both their pre-service and continuing education.

The quality of textbooks also supports the provision of high-quality instruction in all parts of the country. Textbooks come with support materials such as teacher’s guides with background information, ideas for differentiation and pedagogical solutions as well as additional exercises and task for the pupils or students.

How is education funded?

In Finland education is free at all levels from pre-primary to higher education. In pre-primary and basic education the textbooks, daily meals and transportation for students living further away from the school are free for the parents. At upper secondary level and in higher education the students themselves or their parents purchase their own books. At secondary level the students have the right to a free meal and in higher education meals are subsidised by state.

Adult education is the only form of education that may require payment. To ensure the opportunities to study for everyone there is a well-developed system of study grants and loans. Financial aid can be awarded for full-time study in upper secondary school, vocational institution or institution of higher education.

Most education in Finland is publicly funded and responsibility for educational funding is divided between the state and the local authorities. Most private institutions also receive public funding. Pre-primary and basic education is part of the municipal basic services that receive statutory government transfers. The statutory government transfer for municipal basic services is approximately a third of the calculatory costs. The funding for upper secondary education and vocational education and training is based on the number of students reported by the schools as well as on the unit prices set by the Ministry of Education and Culture. In the funding of universities of applied sciences the Government allocates resources in the form of core funding, which is based on unit cost per student, project funding and performance-based funding. Polytechnics also have external source of funding. Finnish universities are independent corporations under public law or foundations under private law. Universities receive funding from the state but they are also expected to raise external funding.