Living in Finland


Suomalainen koulutusjärjestelmä
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The Finnish education system

Finnish education is of high quality. Differences in the learning results of different schools are small and nearly all students complete comprehensive school within target time. Preschool education, comprehensive education and upper secondary education is free of charge and also higher education is for the most part free of charge. The goal is for everyone to have an equal opportunity to receive high quality education regardless of the family’s income and to grow up to become active citizens.

The education system includes early childhood education, preschool education, comprehensive education, upper secondary education and higher education. Adult education is intended for adults and it includes a multitude of alternatives from comprehensive to higher education.

Early childhood education

In Finland, children are entitled to receive early childhood education before they reach school age. Early childhood education is organised in day care centres and family day care. Children may also participate in early education together with a parent in a playground. Children may receive at least 20 hours of early childhood education per week, or more if the parents are working or studying. The goal is to support children’s development and well-being. They learn, for example, social and manual skills and gain different types of information. Children also acquire skills that help them learn more.

A lot of playtime and outdoor activities are included. If the child’s native language is not Finnish or Swedish, he or she will receive support in learning Finnish or Swedish. The child may also receive special needs education, if necessary.

In Finland, municipalities organise early childhood education. It is tax funded and therefore more affordable to families. There is also private early childhood education available in Finland. Trained early education teachers and child nurses work with children.

Read more about early childhood education on the InfoFinland page Early childhood education.

Preschool education

In Finland, children must attend preschool education for one year before compulsory education begins. Preschool education usually starts during the year when the child turns six. Municipalities organise preschool education and it is free of charge for families. Preschool education is given by early education teachers who have graduated from a university. Preschool education is usually organised from Monday to Friday, four hours a day. In addition to preschool education, the child can also attend early education if the parents are working or studying.

During the preschool year, children learn skills that are useful in school, such as letters. They are not, however, taught how to read. If the child’s native language is not Finnish or Swedish, he or she will receive support in learning Finnish or Swedish. A preschool day also includes playtime and outdoor activities.

Read more on the InfoFinland page Preschool education.

Comprehensive education

In Finland, comprehensive education normally starts during the year when the child turns seven. All children residing in Finland permanently must attend comprehensive education. Comprehensive school comprises of nine grades. Compulsory education ends when the child has completed the entire comprehensive education syllabus or when ten years has passed since the beginning of compulsory education.

Finnish legislation guides comprehensive education. National curriculum bases and local curriculums are also in use.

Municipalities organise comprehensive education. It is tax funded and therefore free-of-charge for families. There is about 20 hours of tuition per week for lower grades and more for higher grades.

All comprehensive school teachers in Finland have a Master’s degree. Comprehensive school class teachers, who teach grades 1–6, are specialised in pedagogy. Grade 7–9 teachers are specialised in the subjects they teach.

Teachers are at liberty to plan their tuition independently based on the national and local curricula. Recently, curricula have emphasised, for example, entities that cover several subjects, investigating daily phenomena and information and communications technology.

Children often have the same teacher for the first six years. The teacher gets to know the students well and is able to develop the tuition to suit their needs. One important goal is that the students learn how to think for themselves and assume responsibility over their own learning.

The teacher evaluates the students’ progress in school. In comprehensive education, all grades are given by the teacher. There are no national examinations as such. Instead, learning results are being monitored with sample-based evaluations. These are usually organised in the ninth grade.

If the child or young person has only recently moved to Finland, he or she may receive preparatory education for comprehensive education. Preparatory education usually takes one year. After it, the student may continue to study Finnish or Swedish as a second language, or an S2 language, if he or she needs support in learning the language.

Adult immigrants who have no comprehensive school leaving certificate from their native country may complete comprehensive school in upper secondary schools for adults.

Read more about comprehensive education on the InfoFinland page Comprehensive education.

Upper secondary education

The most common options after comprehensive school are upper secondary school and vocational education. They are considered upper secondary education. Upper secondary education is usually free-of-charge for the students. However, they must purchase their own books and other learning materials.

Upper secondary schools

Upper secondary schools provide all-round education which does not lead to any profession. The same subjects are studied in upper secondary schools as in comprehensive school, but the studies are more demanding and independent. At the end, students usually take the matriculation examination. Upper secondary school takes 2–4 years, depending on the student. After finishing, students are eligible to apply to universities, universities of applied sciences or upper secondary school based vocational education.

Most upper secondary schools provide education in Finnish or Swedish language. Larger cities have some upper secondary schools that provide tuition in other languages, such as English or French.

Adults may take upper secondary school studies in upper secondary schools for adults. There, it is possible to either take separate courses or complete the entire upper secondary school syllabus and take the matriculation examination. Tuition may include contact teaching, distance education, online education and independent studies.

Read more about upper secondary school studies on the InfoFinland page Upper secondary school.

Preparatory education for upper secondary school

Good language skills are necessary in upper secondary school. If the student’s native language is some other than Finnish or Swedish and his or her language skills are not yet at the level required for upper secondary school studies, he or she can apply to preparatory education for upper secondary school (LUVA). Read more on the InfoFinland page Preparatory education for upper secondary school.

Vocational education

Vocational education is more practice-oriented than upper secondary school education. Completing a vocational qualification takes about three years. After this, students can continue their studies to complete a further vocational qualification or a specialised vocational degree. On-the-job learning is an essential part of the qualification. If students so choose, they can progress from vocational education to higher education.

Further vocational qualification or a specialised vocational degree can also be completed as competence-based qualifications if the student has already acquired the skills required for the qualification.

Vocational qualification can also be obtained through apprenticeship training. In this case, students work in jobs within their own field, receive a salary that is at least equal to training salary and complete their studies at the same time.

Read more on the InfoFinland page Vocational education and training.

Preparatory vocational education

If your language or study skills are not adequate for vocational education, you can apply for preparatory vocational education (VALMA). Read more on the InfoFinland page Preparatory vocational education.

Higher education

After finishing your upper secondary studies, you can progress to higher education. In Finland, higher education is provided by universities and universities of applied sciences.

Studying in an institute of higher education may be free or subject to a charge. You will be charged tuition fees if you are not an EU or EEA citizen or a family member of an EU or EEA citizen and are studying towards a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in an English-language degree programme.

More information is available on the InfoFinland page Foreign students in Finland.

Universities of applied sciences

The education provided by universities of applied sciences is more practice-oriented than that offered by universities. Tuition also includes on-the-job learning. Completing a Bachelor’s degree in a university of applied sciences takes 3.5–4.5 years. If you also want to complete a Master’s degree, you must first acquire three years of work experience from the same field. Read more on the InfoFinland page Universities of applied sciences.


University tuition is based on scientific research. Completing a Bachelor’s degree in a university takes about three years and Master’s degree about two more years. Universities organise English language tuition in some of their degree programmes. However, the teaching language of most degree programmes is either Finnish or Swedish.

Once you have completed a Master’s degree, you can apply for a right to complete further studies and earn a Licentiate’s or Doctoral degree.

Read more on the InfoFinland page Universities.

Applying for education and training

InfoFinland page Applying for education and training includes information on applying to upper secondary and higher education in Finland. If you are planning to study in Finland, more information is also available on the InfoFinland pages Foreign students in Finland and Student.

Other study opportunities

In Finland, there are also many educational institutions offering persons of all ages studies which do not lead to a degree. Most of these studies are intended for adults. These institutions include adult education centres, summer universities, study centres and sports training centres.

The studies provide all-round education. You can study languages, arts, crafts and communications, for instance. Normally the student has to cover some of the expenses of the education.

However, in certain situations studying at these institutions may be free of charge. Education is non-chargeable if, for example, education in reading and writing and other language training have been approved as parts of your integration plan.

Language training

If you would like to study Finnish or Swedish, read more on the InfoFinland page Finnish and Swedish language.