Education System in Finland
Education in Finland is as free and fair as anything in this advanced society – there are no tuition fees and even meals are free. It begins with daycare and pre-school programs (including 1 compulsory year). This is followed by 9 years at a compulsory comprehensive school, and then a choice of options at secondary level. There is no tracking nor streaming until this point is reached. The emphasis during the first 4 years is fun, respect for the child as an individual, and learning socialization skills. In fact, more advanced children are expected to help those lagging behind.
From year 4 onwards grades are awarded. Pupils are encouraged to improve as the year continues, with repeats being regarded as a last resort where parents share in the decision. Classes are small (less than 1:20), the atmosphere is relaxed, and efforts are made to integrate education with the larger world outside. If a student lives far from their nearest school, free transport (and sometimes even free housing) is provided.
Secondary education - which is free but not compulsory – lasts for 4 years and has a flavor of high school and junior college. Those intending to go on to a university or polytechnic institute continue with their academic studies concluding with a secondary school certificate. They may write their matriculation certificate at this time too.
Secondary level Finnish students may elect to go to vocational school instead, where they undergo training to establish their occupational competence. This system is not rigid though, and they may still apply to study a tertiary level armed with their vocational school certificate. Some secondary schools act as cross-over points where both streams may be taken simultaneously. This egalitarian education system continues to be free in the form of life-long, adult learning too.
There are two forms of tertiary education in Finland, namely universities, and polytechnics. The latter focus on practical skills and do not involve themselves in research (although they may engage in industry development). By way of an example, they train nurses, whereas doctors go to university. Polytechnic graduates can cross-over between programs at master’s degree level.
The oldest institution is the University of Helsinki founded in 1640 as the Academy of Turku. There, 11 faculties and 11 research centers attend to the needs of over 35,000 students and the greater society.