The Finnish Education System


Education in Finland from pre-primary school to higher education is free of charge and compulsory until the age of 18. That means that families have to apply for permission from the headmaster if the child needs time off from school outside the school holidays. The headmaster can reject the application based on what is best for the child’s education. Teachers in Finland are highly educated and often strongly committed to their work. Accessibility and equality are important guiding principles.

You can choose either the Swedish or the Finnish path for education. If you start early childhood education and care in Swedish, you usually continue in Swedish through basic education. A vast majority continue in Swedish at higher education as well. Finnish is taught to children in Swedish schools, and vice versa, so a child will learn both languages.

Reasons to choose Swedish as an education language vary, but may include the following:

  • The child or family has Swedish-speaking friends
  • The child or family has ties to other Nordic countries
  • A person in the family is Swedish-speaking
  • An adult in the family is integrating in Swedish
  • The Swedish school is closer, or otherwise more attractive
  • The free-time activity options in the area are in Swedish
  • Swedish-language is considered easier by the care-givers of the child

The education system consists of:

  • Early childhood education and care before compulsory education, småbarnspedagogik, is voluntary for children aged 1-5
  • Pre-primary education, förskola, is compulsory the year before basic education begins, age 6 or ages 5-6 in certain municipalities and schools 
  • Basic education or comprehensive school, grundskola, is compulsory
    • grades 1-6, lågstadiet, ages 7-12
    • grades 7-9, högstadiet, ages 13-15
    • additional education, or HUX education, is available for youth wishing to improve their abilities to enter upper secondary education
  • Upper secondary education for ages 15-18 is compulsory.
    • general upper secondary education, gymnasium, classes 1-3
    • vocational education and training, yrkesskola
  • Higher education is available after basic and upper secondary education
    • universities, universitet, handelshögskola
    • universities of applied sciences, yrkeshögskola

The City of Helsinki has made a School journey timeline that covers ages 0 to 19+.

Adult education is available for adults.

Read more about the Finnish education system at InfoFinland and at the Ministry of Education and Culture.

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