Another Finnish Brick In the Wall
A true fact proven time after time, Finland has great education. But why is it so great? What’s the difference? Is it really free? Let’s take a closer look.
Finnish education system is great for a lot of reasons. It’s free, more about that below, it’s high standard, Finland reaches top placements in math, science and reading for several years with PISA, The Programme for International Student Assessment, and the success is repeated in other national education rankings as well. And it is for everyone. No matter your social status, family money, or background, everyone starts at the same level. There are private schools in Finland too, not a lot and many of them are faith-based or focusing on education with English or Swedish as the main language, but the use of tuition fees is prohibited, and selective admission is prohibited too. So you can’t buy your way into a better school in Finland.
What’s the difference then with for example U.S. schools? Besides the things just mentioned, Finnish schools have a few other differences too compared to the educational system of U.S. Here’s some, not all:
- Unlike the US, where state and local governments are mandated to allocate money towards education, Finnish schools are 100% nationally funded based on the number of students. This way we ensure the same quality of education no matter where you live.
- Finnish students only take one standardized test during their entire primary and secondary schooling, and this test is graded by teachers, not computers.
- For every 45 minutes of work, Finnish students must have a 15 minute break. Because fresh air is good for you, and all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. (The Shining, try to keep up.)
- Finnish school starts at the age of 7, and lasts 9 years as compulsory. At the age of six the children start preschool, to learn how to learn and play in a group. You do not have to learn how read in preschool, it’s mostly play.
- Shorter school days. In Finland, there are no set school hours per day or week, this is up to the schools themselves, but there is a set minimum of weekly hours. On 1st and 2nd grade the minimum is 19 hours a week, rising a bit every or every second grade, and at 5th and 6th grade the minimum is 25 hours a week. Ninth graders get the most, at least 30 hours every week.
You say it’s free, but it’s really not is it? It is, stop asking that. Finnish education really really is free. And you get a free lunch too. Apparently there is such a thing after all. Compulsory school doesn’t have mandatory costs that fall on the students or their families, and high-school, vocational schools, college, and university, and if we forgot anything, that too probably, all also completely free of tuition fees. And you can get financial aid from the government, when you are a full time student, and over seventeen. So you do not have to get a job to pay for your education, books and such, or to feed and house you while getting this education.
Anything else we need to cover? When I was at fourth grade, I think, we got to bring our pets to school for show and tell. My friend brought a chicken. Oh and equality is the most important word in Finnish education.
“No dark sarcasm in the classroom” – Pink Floyd, Another Brick In the Wall
Photo by Ben White.
The writer of this story is a member of the Mom of Finland community.
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