The Finnish education system

When you relocate to a new country with a family, one of the main concerns is to find a suitable school for your children. One of the advantages of relocating to Finland is our great educational system, which is world-famous for its high quality, and even chosen as the best in the world. However, there are differences between the education systems of different countries, and identifying a suitable school often requires professional assistance.

Finland’s famous education system

The Finnish educational system is based on the principle of equality: everyone must have equal access to high-quality education. Education is free from pre-primary to higher education (Tuition fees at universities apply to students that come from a country outside the EU, EEA, or Switzerland). In pre-primary and basic education the textbooks and daily lunches are complimentary as well.

Good quality of education is ensured by well-educated teachers; teachers in basic and general upper secondary education are required to hold a Master’s degree, and teacher education is difficult to get into. To maximize the potential, every pupil has the right to educational support.

The Finnish education system in a nutshell

  • Pre-primary education is compulsory for children of the age of six. Pre-primary education improves children’s opportunities for learning and development.
  • The nine-year basic education, or comprehensive school, is compulsory for all children in Finland. Compulsory education begins in the year during which a child turns seven.
    • Preparatory education is provided for the migrant children whose Finnish language skills are not adequate to study in basic education.
  • After the compulsory education, most of the students continue to the upper secondary level and choose between general and vocational education. General upper secondary education (lukio in Finnish) is more theoretical, whereas vocational education qualifies the student for a particular vocation. There are also upper secondary schools that combine general and vocational education.
  • The students who have completed upper secondary education can apply to higher education, offered by universities and universities of applied sciences.

Another difference between Finland and many other countries is the timing of the school year. In Finland, school usually lasts from August to the end of May or beginning of June. In addition to summer break, there are some other yearly holidays during the school year.

Finnish or international school?

There are both public and private international schools in Finland, most of them located in Helsinki or the capital area. International schools are often difficult to get in and require a high level of English language skills. Thus, we recommend considering a normal Finnish school, especially if you are staying in Finland for several years; this helps children to learn the language and adapt to the culture faster.

Also, Kim from Canada wants that her children attend Finnish school, because the family wants to stay in Finland for a long time. “In Sweden, we didn’t have relocation help so I didn’t know about any other options than the international school. Here we want our children to learn the language and culture, so they will study in Finnish.”


Does your foreign employee need help with moving to Finland? Contact us!

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