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Comprehensive education

In Finland, all children go to school, because according to the law, all children must receive comprehensive education. Teachers are highly educated and the teaching is of high quality in all schools.

In general, children and young people receive comprehensive education in comprehensive school. A child usually starts school in the year when he/she turns 7. Comprehensive school usually lasts nine years. Comprehensive school is free for everyone.

Starting school

At the beginning of the year, you will receive a notice regarding your child’s compulsory education. It can come in the post or in the Wilma service if you are already using Wilma. Read more about Wilma in the section Messages between the home and school on this page.

You will receive instructions for enrolling your child in school. It usually has to be done in January. In many municipalities, you can do it in Wilma. Municipalities have different ways of enrolling a child in school. For more information, please ask your municipality.

Enrol your child in the local school (lähikoulu). The local school is usually the school that is the closest to your home. You can also apply for a place in another school for your child. However, it is not always possible to get your child a place in any school other than the local school.

English-language schools and other teaching in different languages

The largest cities have international schools and schools where the language of instruction is English. There are also private schools in Finland where the language of instruction is German, French or Russian.

You can usually find information on these schools on the city’s website.

Different schools

Your child may also attend a school that is specialised in a certain subject. Sometimes these schools are private schools. A school may specialise, among others, in the following things:

  • Art
  • Music
  • Physical education
  • Special pedagogy (for example, Steiner pedagogy)

Link redirects to another websiteAssociation of Steiner Pedagogy

Information on Steiner schools

School day and studying

School begins in August and ends in late May or early June. School is out for the summer during June and July.

The length of school days varies between grades. In primary school, the days are shorter than in secondary school. Individual classes usually take 45 minutes. In between classes, children go outside into the school playground. Teachers supervise the children.  A school week usually comprises approximately 20 classes.

Children have a single hot meal in school. It is free-of-charge. If your child has a special diet, please inform a teacher.

In comprehensive school, children study many compulsory subjects. In the final grades of primary school and in secondary school, they can also choose optional subjects.

In school, all children can receive education in their own religion or in ethics. Education in a particular religion must be arranged when a municipality contains at least three children of that religion.

Some schools have separate classes for students with talent in music or visual arts, for example. These classes normally require separate application.

Link redirects to another websiteMinistry of Education and Culture

Information on basic education

Link redirects to another websiteFinnish National Agency for Education

Information on basic education

Preparatory education

A child or young person may receive preparatory education for basic education, during which he or she will study Finnish (or Swedish) and some other subjects. Preparatory education is intended for all immigrant children whose skills are not yet good enough to attend basic education in a group. Preparatory education usually takes one year. After this, the student is transferred to a normal class.

Children who participate in preparatory education get individual learning plan. The plan includes the subjects and the pace at which the child will study. The plan is prepared by the school’s student counsellor, class teacher, special needs teacher or a Finnish as a second language teacher. They can also prepare it together. They take into account the children’s skills and what they have studied in the past.

Native language instruction

If the child’s native language is not Finnish or Swedish, the municipality can arrange for education in the language in question. This allows the child to study Finnish or Swedish as a second language, i.e. S2 language (S2-kieli). A student will study Finnish (or Swedish) as a second language, if his or her Finnish or Swedish skills are not at a native level.

Basic education for adults

Comprehensive education for adults (Aikuisten perusopetus) is provided, among other things, by general upper secondary schools for adults and adult education institutes. You can search for training programmes in the Studyinfo service. You can also ask the advisory services of your municipality for advice. 

Messages between the home and school

In many municipalities, the school uses the Wilma online service to communicate about important matters. The school gives the child’s parents a username and password for the service. Through Wilma, you can stay in touch with your child’s teachers and receive information about your child’s learning, exams and absences as well as school events and holidays. If your child must be absent from school, for example due to illness, inform the school through Wilma that morning.

It is important to monitor Wilma regularly. If you need help with using Wilma, ask the school for guidance.

Parents’ evenings

In Finland, schools organise joint parents’ evenings for the parents of pupils. They are meant for all parents. At parents’ evenings, you will get to know your child’s school, teacher and other parents. You will also obtain information about your child’s schooling and what takes place at school. When you are familiar with your child’s studies and school matters, you will be able to help and support your child better.

Student support

Comprehensive school students are supported in their school work. Student counsellors talk to students about study methods and further education. They also provide career selection guidance.

Teachers can provide children with short-term remedial education.

Children who have difficulty learning and concentrating receive special needs education. Special needs groups are smaller than regular classes.

Schools also have school psychologists and school social workers. They can help children with various issues, such as attentiveness problems, difficult family situations or bullying. Help is also available, for example from family services in your local area. Read more on the InfoFinland page Mental health.

Preparatory education for programmes leading to an upper secondary qualification (TUVA)

Preparatory education for programmes leading to an upper secondary qualification (TUVA) is a good option if you have completed basic education and do not yet know which field you would like to apply for. During TUVA training, you can improve your basic education grades and also improve your Finnish language skills. Read more about TUVA education on the InfoFinland page General upper secondary school and Vocational education and training.

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