In Finland education has always considered being the key to survive and thrive in the up-to-date competitive world. The Finnish strategy for achieving excellence in education is based on a fundamental principle: less is more. The attention is paid to the quality of the process of studying with preparing for future life but not for exams. This system allows to study less and, at the same time, to get one of the greatest well-known educations in the whole world, to develop practical skills that lead to the quickly offered and well-paid job. Lifelong learning is considered to be the Finnish form of learning.
Let us see how one of the top ranking education systems works from school to university.
First of all, parents can put their 6-years old children to a special class with the one-year program, where kids are learning all the necessary for school skills in a playful way. It is a part of the preschool education system and it is free.
Compulsory primary education
When Finnish kids turn 7 years old the real studies begin. The next 9 classes (till the age of 16) are compulsory for everyone. They are free, just like meals, learning materials, equipment and all the facilities needed.
Studies are in Finnish and Swedish. English classes begin with the 3rd class.
In Finland, there is the principle of equal opportunities to get an education for every resident. The same concerns all foreigners: they have the right to receive the same basic education as Finns.
That means that all kids start at the same level, no matter what socio-economic background they have. Classes are formed with different level pupils without dividing the first one on «special» and «middle» ones. As the result, every pupil gets its own tasks according to an individual education plan and, as well, gets its own system of estimation.
Every child can receive extra help during first nine years of school so that it provides students with all the necessary support and guidance.
Test or exam system during primary school does not exist at all. So both teachers and pupils can focus on practices and generate new ideas. It helps to develop in a fear-free environment, to become a creative individual who is not afraid to take risks.
Teachers are expected to realize what kind of attention and learning style their pupils need, to identify individual tendencies for various professions of every pupil. Maintaining of such system requires teachers to be very well qualified and gifted to teach. Teachers of both primary and secondary school must have the Master’s degree. They are selected from the top 10% of graduates and are given the same status as doctors and lawyers.
After nine-year basic education, further education is optional and students at the age of 16 may choose to continue their education in either upper secondary school or in a vocational institution. Both these tracks have three years program, but students can complete it in 2 or 4 years. The basement for the transferring is an average grade point.
The main National Matriculation Examination is the only exam that is passed during school education and the only one at the end of the secondary school at the age of 19. Subjects are as follows: Finnish and Swedish languages, foreign language, mathematics and social or natural sciences. This exam determines student’s acceptance to the University.
The main goal of an upper secondary school is to prepare students for the Matriculation test. At the same time training program focused on the development of necessary knowledge and skills for working life and personal interests as well. Studying process is organized in the modular form. After finishing each course students get their marks. After the requested amount of courses is completed (including obligatory and facultative courses), the Certificate of general secondary education is issued.
Providing of a vocational competence for various careers and capabilities for self-employment is the main aim of vocational institutions. The modular system with individual training programs is used here as well. But one of the main methods of estimation is a demonstration of professional knowledge by passing demonstration examination.
This examination means the accomplishment of tasks according to professional requirements that are carried out in the real workplace.
Higher education system in Finland is represented by universities and polytechnics.
Training programs are mainly in Finnish but some are in English. For those who study in Finnish and Swedish languages, higher education is free.
Universities provide students with Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctor’s degrees. They are oriented for scientific and research works. It is worth to mention that the majority of students want to get Master’s degree. It takes them 5 years (2 years more than Bachelor’s degree takes) to get it. A huge amount of attention during the learning process is paid for research activities.
Polytechnics are orientated on professional higher education with receiving an academic degree along with training necessary practical professional skills that are required by future working life. Training of these skills includes production training. It takes from 3.5 to 4.5 years to complete a polytechnic degree. Training programs are in a close contact with various regional enterprises of commercial, industrial and service sectors.