Education Finland offers a wide variety of educational programs, from short-term courses to full degree programs. All of the country’s institutions of higher education offer courses taught in English. Finland receives international students from all over the world.
The Finnish higher education system comprises two parallel sectors: universities and polytechnics. The universities specialize in research and higher education connected with it. They offer a lower (Bachelor's) and a higher (Master's) academic degree, as well as post-graduate licentiates and doctoral degrees. The polytechnics provide instruction in subjects from several vocational and professional sectors. They provide higher education degrees with an emphasis on working life.
There are 20 universities in Finland: ten multifaculty institutions, three technical universities, three schools of economics and business administration, and four arts universities. Universities represent the oldest educational tradition in Finland: the first The Royal Academy of Turku, was founded in 1640. Their operations are based on academic and personal freedom. Each university defines its own regulations governing curricula and degrees, and sets its own annual admission limits.
Established in 2010, the Aalto University is a new university with centuries of experience. The Aalto University is a created from the merger of three Finnish universities: The Helsinki School of Economics, Helsinki University of Technology and The University of Art and Design Helsinki. The three schools of the Aalto University - the School of Economics, the School of Art and Design and the School of Science and Technology are all leading and renowned institutions in their respective fields and in their own right.
The combination of three universities opens up new possibilities for strong multi-disciplinary education and research. The new university's ambitious goal is to be one of the leading institutions in the world in terms of research and education in its own specialised disciplines.
There are 29 polytechnics in Finland. The special feature of the polytechnics is their close link with working life and their aim of providing vocational skills in different sectors: technology and transport, business and administration, health and social services, culture, tourism, catering and institutional management, natural resources, the humanities and education. The polytechnics system is fairly recent in Finland, having been created in the 1990s.
Your university in Finland may have a student exchange agreement with one or more Finnish universities. For more information, visit the International Office of your university. All Finnish universities have exchange programs. To find out more, visit the Websites of the Finnish university network and the Finnish polytechnics.
Basic education is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 16. It includes tuition, books and supplies, the midday hot meal, and transportation in cases where the student lives more than 5 kilometres from the school. As well, about 90% of children attend a year-long, voluntary preschool.
The school year in Finland runs from mid-August to the end of May, with a week-long fall and winter break, breaks at Christmas and Easter, and ten weeks of summer holiday. Students can join any of a range of clubs and organizations offering a wide selection of activities, from music to sports, drama to cooking, etc. These activities are held at the school immediately after the school day or in the evening.
In addition to the compulsory subjects—mother tongue, other languages, math, biology, geography, physics, chemistry, religion (or alternatively, philosophy and ethics), history, civics, music, art, home economics, crafts, and sports—schools offer different themes for studies, and use creative teaching and learning methods.
Every day, Finnish schoolchildren enjoy a free, healthy and nutritious hot lunch featuring classics of Finnish cuisine and student favourites.
Distances in Finland are long, and though most of the population is concentrated in a few urban centres, people in rural areas still live far apart. The network of comprehensive schools covers the whole country, and the government strives to ensure that no student has to travel an unreasonable distance to school. As a result there are many small schools, some with as few as two or three teachers. Long distances have encouraged the rapid development of distance education: some larger schools offer smaller ones the opportunity to combine their classes through videoconferencing.
Finland is officially a bilingual country: the majority of the population speaks Finnish, while about 6% claim Swedish as their mother tongue. However, because Finnish is spoken by only about 5 million people in the world, Finns are keen to learn other languages in order to communicate with people from other cultures.
Education in Finland is offered in both official languages, Finnish and Swedish, and children may attend school in either one. Language studies are introduced at the age of nine. During their nine-year compulsory education, children learn at least two foreign languages—usually English and the second of the country's two official languages—and can choose to study more. Besides the national network of comprehensive schools, there are immersion schools operating in other languages and students can elect to complete their studies in a foreign language if they wish.
The Finnish school system is often held up as a model for other countries. International studies attest to its success: in a 2003 survey, the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) placed Finland among the top countries.