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Development of the Finnish Education System

In Finland, education is valued and Finns are generally well-educated. There are many different opportunities to study in Finland, and you can also study as an adult. Today, the Finnish education system is considered one of the best in the world, but this has not always been the case. The education system has developed over the course of several decades, and education has gradually become a requirement for gaining access to the labour market and succeeding in life. Women in Finland are also highly educated compared to women in many other countries.

People in Finland strongly believe that learning and education improve your ability to cope in a globalizing world. Education can also help you gain a better status in society. It is thought that Finland will fare better in global competition if it invests in education. Education and certificates are also important in job hunting, because there are very few jobs left in Finland that do not require education in the field in question.

Lifelong Learning

The Finnish education system is based on the idea of lifelong learning (elinikäinen oppiminen). This means that a person learns throughout life, from infancy to old age. Therefore, learning does not end when a person completes some level of education. In addition to educational institutions that belong to the formal education system, learning also occurs in informal environments. These include everyday activities, hobbies and the use of the media and communication technology. Lifelong learning is essential, because society and working life are constantly changing and developing.

Birth of the Education System

Societal changes always happen for a reason. They usually stem from a need or an ideology. Various societal needs and ideologies have also influenced the birth and development of the Finnish education system. The first schools were established in Finland more than 700 years ago under the Catholic Church. Back then, almost all Finns lived in the countryside, and for a long time, only a few upper- class boys had the chance to go to school. They were mainly educated to become priests.

The Reformation began in many European countries in the 16th century. Various new religions, such as Lutheranism, separated from the Catholic Church. Finland also used to be a Catholic country, but became Lutheran due to the Reformation. The Reformation also had the effect of gradually changing attitudes towards education, since the Lutheran Church emphasized the language of the common people and literacy. It was thought that every parishioner should be able to read the Bible is his or her own language.

The Finnish Education System Today

All children residing permanently in Finland are obligated by law to go to school (oppivelvollisuus), meaning that they must receive compulsory schooling. This means that all children must obtain the knowledge and skills determined by law and in the basic education curriculum (perusopetuksen opetussuunnitelma).

Compulsory schooling starts in the year the child turns seven and ends at the end of the school year in the year he or she turns 17. It is the guardians’ responsibility to make sure that the child completes the compulsory education. The guardian is usually the child’s parent or parents. If the guardian does not make sure that the child attends compulsory education, the court may issue a penalty to the guardian.

Higher Education Institutions

Higher education institutions in Finland are divided into universities of applied sciences (ammattikorkeakoulu) and universities (yliopisto). The education provided in universities of applied sciences corresponds to the high vocational skills requirements of working life, and the education in universities is based on high-quality scientific research. Studying in a university of applied sciences is more practical, whereas university studies are more theoretical. Most higher education institutions in Finland are public and are funded mainly by taxes. Students living in Finland do not usually have to pay a separate tuition fee.

Finland - Civic Orientation Textbook

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