Before Finland’s independence in 1917, the moderate expansion of formal education was boosted by industrialization and urbanization. After the Second World War the creation of a Nordic-style welfare state with economic growth rapidly expanded all levels of education. Today Finnish education is universally provided, funded by the state, and free from the preprimary level.
Early childhood education and care (ECEC, ISCED 0) includes preprimary education for 6-year-olds and preceding integrated ECEC services. Compulsory nine-year comprehensive schools cover primary and lower secondary education (ISCED 1–2). Three years of upper secondary education (ISCED 3–4) are organized by general or vocational institutions. Universities and universities of applied sciences (UAS), both have three-year bachelor and two-year master’s programs (ISCED 6–7). Doctoral degrees (ISCED 8) can be pursued only in universities.. Liberal adult education is widely offered.
The Finnish parliament has legislative power over education. The government can draft legislation and implements any resulting reforms. The Ministry of Education and Culture has the main responsibilities for general national planning. The Finnish National Agency of Education plans the core curriculum from ECEC until upper secondary education. Regional authorities have tasks in relation to planning and complaints.
Municipalities are the main providers of ECEC, and primary and secondary education. There is also a small, though growing, proportion of private providers in ECEC. Each education provider drafts a curriculum based on the national core curriculum.
Universities are either corporations under public law or private foundations. They are autonomous; UASs are nonprofit limited companies. Most higher education funding is provided by the state.
Student and institutional evaluation is done by an independent agency, the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre. All education providers are also required to evaluate their education. Evaluation is used for development purposes and not for inciting competition or top-down governance.
Table 1. 1. Educational Institutions of the School
System and Numbers of Students by Type of Educational Institution, 2017. Source: Statistics Finland (n.d.), “A Total of 2,300
Comprehensive Schools in Operation, the Share of Joint Growing.” tilastokeskus.fi.
(accessed November 30, 2018).
|Type of Educational Institution||Number||Students|
|Comprehensive School Level Special Education Schools||73||4,400|
|Upper Secondary General Schools||340||109,500|
|Comprehensive and Upper Secondary General Level Schools||41||28,100|
|Special Needs Vocational Institutes||6||5,100|
|Specialised Vocational Institutes||26||30,500|
|Vocational Adult Education Centers||20||27,600|
|Fire, Police, and Security Service Institutes||1||200|
|Military Vocational Institutes||6||–|
|Universities of Applied Sciences||25||144,900|
|Music Schools and Colleges||84||64,100|
|Folk High Schools||73||18,100|
|Adult Education Centers||181||464,400|
|Study Circle Centers||12||30,700|
|Other Educational Institutions||6||400|
Table 2. Current Expenditure on Regular Education
System by Type of Expenditure, 2016. Source:
Statistics Finland (n.d.), “Current Expenditure on the Regular Education System
Remained Unchanged in 2016.” tilastokeskus.fi.
(accessed November 30, 2018).
|Type of Expenditure||€ million||%|
|Preprimary education for 6-year-old children (preschool education) in day care centers and comprehensive schools.[a]|
|Comprehensive School Education||4,691||38.40|
|Upper Secondary General Education||730||6.00|
|University of Applied Sciences Education||916||7.50|
|University Education and Research‡||2,284||18.70|
|Financial Aid for Students||866||7.10|
[a] Includes universities’ external financing for research.
Table 3. Population with Educational Qualification by
Level of Education, Field of Education, and Gender, 2017. Source: Statistics Finland (n.d.), “Educational Qualifications Highest
Among Persons Aged 40 to 44 in 2017.” tilastokeskus.fi.
(accessed November 30, 2018).
|Field of Education Gender||Level of Education|
|Total||Upper Secondary Education||Postsecondary Non-tertiary Education||Tertiary Level Total||Short-cycle Tertiary Education||Bachelor’s or Equivalent Level||Master’s or Equivalent Level||Doctoral or Equivalent Level|
|Generic Programs and Qualifications||Total||307,607||307,607||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|Arts and Humanities||Total||187,143||58,133||913||128,097||6,642||43,083||72,945||5,427|
|Social Sciences, Journalism, and Information||Total||75,998||517||–||75,481||3,827||15,389||51,038||5,227|
|Business, Administration, and Law||Total||545,948||177,019||16,212||352,717||190,009||91,014||68,879||2,815|
|Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Statistics||Total||51,980||2,666||56||49,258||–||7,699||32,734||8,825|
|Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)||Total||116,985||37,692||595||78,698||14,530||39,549||22,381||2,238|
|Engineering, Manufacturing, and Construction||Total||903,014||622,485||6,242||274,287||75,486||121,525||69,717||7,559|
|Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, and Veterinary||Total||136,701||95,238||796||40,667||14,007||13,910||11,351||1,399|
|Health and Welfare||Total||494,223||225,667||2,991||265,565||95,334||116,174||44,461||9,596|
Jaakko Kauko, PhD, MSocSc, is Professor in Education Policy at the Faculty of Education and Culture, Tampere University, Finland. His research focuses on politics and policymaking in education, and questions related to comparative education. His latest publications include a final report, edited with Risto Rinne and Tuomas Takala, from a comparative research project Politics of Quality in Education: A Comparative Study of Brazil, China, and Russia (2018), and a monograph, with Hannu Simola, Janne Varjo, Mira Kalalahti, and Fritjof Sahlström, titled Dynamics in Education Politics: Understanding and Explaining the Finnish Case (2017).
Elina Fonsén (University of Helsinki, Finland)
Tuuli From (University of Helsinki, Finland)
Johanna Hakala (Academy of Finland, Finland)
Noora Heiskanen (University of Jyvaskyla, Finland)
Heidi Harju-Luukkainen (University of Gothenburg, Sweden; University of California, Los Angeles, USA; University of Jyväskylä, Finland)
Mira Kalalahti (University of Helsinki, Finland)
Jarmo Kallunki (University of Tampere, Finland)
Kirsti Karila (University of Tampere, Finland)
Jaakko Kauko (University of Tampere, Finland)
Jussi Kivistö (University of Tampere, Finland)
Vuokko Kohtamäki (University of Tampere, Finland)
Anna Medvedeva (University of Tampere, Finland)
Maiju Paananen (University of Tampere, Finland)
Elias Pekkola (University of Tampere, Finland)
Maria Pietilä (University of Helsinki, Finland)
Laura Rantavuori (University of Tampere, Finland)
Anna Slotte (University of Helsinki, Finland)
Janne Varjo (University of Helsinki, Finland)
Riitta Viitala (University of Jyvaskyla, Finland)