Written by Prakriti Panwar, a first-year undergraduate student.
Finland’s education system is known to be one of the best in the world. Education at most levels is free here and teaching is a highly valued job.
But what is so special about the Finnish education system?
For one, children here are entitled to something known as ‘early childhood education,’ which they can receive before they reach the official school age. This early childhood education usually takes place in playgrounds and daycares with the aim of teaching social, linguistic, and manual skills to children.
Apart from this, children in Finland also have to complete one year of preschool education, usually at the age of 6. This is necessary and is free of cost because municipalities organize preschool education. At seven years of age, Finnish children start their ‘comprehensive education which consists of nine grades or classes.
Comprehensive school teachers stick with their students for the first six years and have the liberty to plan their classes based on the broad national/local curriculum. Class sizes are much smaller and interactive too. This allows teachers to clearly understand what their student needs and teach them how to think independently.
In Finnish schools, there are no standardized or national exams/tests. Grades are usually given by teachers and the grading system is also set by the teachers themselves. At the end of upper secondary school, however, students can volunteer to take something known as the National Matriculation Exam. Despite this, there is no comparison or competition of results between students, schools, or regions.
Also, homework isn’t really a thing in Finland.
While students may be given some activities to do at home, these activities are minimal. Instead, children spend a lot of time playing outside, engaging in hands-on learning activities and ‘creative play’. For instance, the Smithsonian magazine gave an example of ‘outdoor math’ cards first-grade students were given. In this activity, students had to “find a stick as big as their foot,” or “gather 50 rocks and acorns and lay them out in groups of ten,” as a team.
Another interesting fact is that there are hardly any private schools in Finland. Private education is not prohibited, but ‘for-profit’ education is. So even private schools charge no fees and get funding from the government. As a result, there is minimal to no discrepancy in the resources students are provided with.
About the teachers
All comprehensive education teachers are required to have a master’s degree and are usually selected from the top 10% of the country’s graduates. Teaching is a serious and sought-after job here. It isn’t one’s backup option, but a dream job. As a result, teachers are highly respected in Finland.
It is no wonder that the PISA survey conducted by the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) ranked Finland as one of the top countries with 15-year-old students excelling in reading, science, and math, alongside high achieving countries such as South Korea and Singapore.