Education in Finland vs Uk

With no inspections, tests, uniforms or fees, Finland’s education system is ranked among the best in the world. Finland – as well as the Nordic region as a whole – is famed for its schools and staff, consistently topping global league tables for pupils’ performance. This article will give you all the information you need on the education in finland vs uk. Have you spent hours searching the web for the answers to those questions? Don’t look anywhere else as this article will give you everything you need to know. 

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But it is a very different story closer to home, with the teaching profession in the UK classed as at breaking point.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT), the biggest union, has called the current situation a “crisis”.

“Overworked and underpaid” has become a phrase synonymous with teaching, with figures from the NUT showing one in 10 are deserting the profession.

In contrast, Finland attracts and retains high-quality candidates by setting the bar high, ensuring only the best make the grade.

Now, a video highlighting key differences between the Finnish model and the US system pinpoints some of the issues the British school system also grapples with.

Finland Education System

Education is one of the cornerstones of the Finnish welfare society. We pride ourselves on an educational system that offers equal opportunities for education for all. Education from pre-primary to higher education is free of charge in Finland. Finnish teachers are highly educated and strongly committed to their work.

Education system in FinlandThe Finnish education system consists of:

  • early childhood education and care which is provided for children before the compulsory education begins,
  • pre-primary education which is provided for children in the year preceding the beginning of compulsory education,
  • nine-year basic education (comprehensive school), which is compulsory,
  • upper secondary education, which is either general upper secondary education or vocational education and training, and
  • higher education provided by universities and universities of applied sciences.
  • Furthermore, adult education is available at all levels.
Early childhood education and care supports the development, learning and wellbeing of a child

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) combines education, teaching and care in a systematic and goal-oriented manner. The goal of ECEC is to promote children’s development, health and wellbeing as well as to improve children’s opportunities for learning.

Local authorities, i.e. municipalities, are responsible for providing ECEC for children under school age. A client fee is charged for early childhood education and care. The fee is determined on the basis of the family’s income and size and the time that the child spends in ECEC.

The National Curriculum Guidelines on Early Childhood Education and Care in Finland, approved by the Finnish National Agency for Education, guide the planning and implementation of the contents of ECEC and function as the basis for drawing up the local ECEC curricula.

Pre-primary education improves children’s opportunities for learning

The goal of pre-primary education is to improve children’s opportunities for learning and development. Pre-primary education plays an important part in the continuum stretching from early childhood education and care to basic education. Since 2015, participation in pre-primary education has been compulsory for all children in Finland. Pre-primary education is provided free of charge.

The person who has custody of a child must ensure that the child participates in pre-primary education or other corresponding activities meeting the objectives set for pre-primary education. The National Core Curriculum for Pre-Primary Education, approved by the Finnish National Agency for Education, guides the planning of the contents of pre-primary education and functions as the basis for drawing up the local curricula.

Compulsory education starts with comprehensive school and ends at the age of 18 

Comprehensive school education (basic education) consists of school years 1 to 9 and is meant for all children aged between 7 and 17 (whole age group). Compulsory education generally starts in the year in which children turn seven. All children who reside permanently in Finland must attend compulsory education.

Comprehensive school education is free of charge. Comprehensive schools are maintained by the local authorities (municipalities) and other education providers. Less than two per cent of comprehensive school pupils go to a private or state school.

At the end of the comprehensive school, each young person must apply for post-comprehensive school education. Compulsory education ends when the person reaches the age of 18 or when they complete an upper secondary qualification (a general upper secondary qualification or a vocational qualification

Choosing general or vocational upper secondary education after comprehensive school education

After comprehensive school, students continue to the upper secondary level and choose between general and vocational education.

General upper secondary education (lukio in Finnish) provides, as its name suggests, general education. It does not qualify students for any particular occupation. At the end of general upper secondary school, students take a national school-leaving examination known as the Finnish matriculation examination. Those who pass the examination are eligible to apply for further studies at universities, universities of applied sciences and vocational institutions. General upper secondary education usually takes three years to complete.

Vocational qualifications include upper secondary qualifications, further qualifications and specialist qualifications. Vocational upper secondary qualifications provide the basic skills required in the field. Further and specialist vocational qualifications enable people to develop their skills at different stages of their career. The scope of vocational upper secondary qualifications is usually 180 ECVET points, further qualifications 150 points and specialist qualifications 180 points.

At the beginning of vocational education and training, the student and the institution draw up a personal competence development plan for the student, outlining the content, schedule and methods of study. Vocational education and training can also be delivered in workplaces through an apprenticeship agreement or a training agreement. Prior learning acquired in various ways can be recognised as part of the studies. Both young people and adults can apply for vocational education and training.

Graduates are eligible to apply for further studies at universities or universities of applied sciences.

Finnish higher education system comprises universities and universities of applied sciences

The mission of universities is to conduct scientific research and provide education based on it. Universities of applied sciences (UAS) provide more practical education that aims to respond to the needs of the labour market.

Universities, offering higher scientific and artistic education, award Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees as well as postgraduate degrees, i.e. licentiate and doctoral degrees. Universities of applied sciences award UAS Bachelor’s degrees and UAS Master’s degrees.

The target completion time for a Bachelor’s degree at a university is three years and for a Master’s degree two years on top of that. The completion of a UAS degree takes usually between 3.5 and 4.5 years. The requirement for Master’s studies at a university of applied sciences is a UAS Bachelors’ degree or another suitable degree and at least two years of work experience after the completion of the previous degree.

Education and training in the spirit of lifelong learning

Adult education and training encompasses education leading to a qualification, degree studies, training preparing for competence-based qualifications, apprenticeship training, further and continuing education updating and extending the professional skills, studies in subjects relating to citizenship skills, working life skills and society, and studies in different crafts and subjects on a recreational basis.

Adult education and training can either be paid for by the student himself or herself or it can be apprenticeship training, labour policy education, or staff-development and other training provided or purchased by employers. Adult education and training is provided by educational institutions mainly providing education for young people, educational institutions providing only adult education, private companies, and workplaces (staff-development).

Liberal adult education offers non-formal studies. It promotes personal growth, health and well-being by offering courses relating to citizenship skills and society and in different crafts and subjects on a recreational basis. Liberal adult education institutions include adult education centres, folk high schools, learning centres, sports training centres and summer universities. An essential aspect of liberal adult education is that everyone has the right to apply to take part in it. The education does not provide a degree or qualification, and its content is not governed by legislation.

Basic education in the arts is goal-oriented education in different fields of art, progressing from one level to another. It teaches children and young people skills in self-expression and capabilities needed for vocational and higher education in their chosen art form.

Education in Finland vs Uk

Students use a Blue-bots, a programmable robots, during their lesson at the school in Tampere, Finland March 27, 2017. REUTERS/Attila Cser
From tests to teachers.Image: REUTERS/Attila Cser

Time and time again, American students continually rank near the middle or bottom among industrialized nations when it comes to performance in math and science. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) which in conjunction with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) routinely releases data which shows that Americans are seriously lagging behind in a number of educational performance assessments.

Despite calls for education reform and a continual lackluster performance on the international scale, not a lot is being done or changing within the educational system. Many private and public schools run on the same antiquated systems and schedules that were once conducive to an agrarian society. The mechanization and rigid assembly-line methods we use today are spitting out ill-prepared worker clones, rudderless adults and an uninformed populace.

But no amount of pontificating will change what we already know. The American education system needs to be completely revamped – from the first grade to the Ph.D. It’s going to take a lot more than a well-meaning celebrity project to do that…

Many people are familiar with the stereotype of the hard-working, rote memorization, myopic tunnel vision of Eastern Asian study and work ethics. Many of these countries, like China, Singapore, and Japan amongst others routinely rank in the number one spots in both math and science.

Some pundits point towards this model of exhaustive brain draining as something Americans should aspire to become. Work more! Study harder! Live less. The facts and figures don’t lie – these countries are outperforming us, but there might be a better and healthier way to go about this.

Finland is the answer – a country rich in intellectual and educational reform has initiated over the years a number of novel and simple changes that have completely revolutionized their educational system. They outrank the United States and are gaining on Eastern Asian countries.https://data.oecd.org/chart/5idx

Are they cramming in dimly-lit rooms on robotic schedules? Nope. Stressing over standardized tests enacted by the government? No way. Finland is leading the way because of common-sense practices and a holistic teaching environment that strives for equity over excellence. Here are 10 reasons why Finland’s education system is dominating America and the world stage.

No standardized testing

Staying in line with our print-minded sensibilities, standardized testing is the blanket way we test for subject comprehension. Filling in little bubbles on a scantron and answering pre-canned questions is somehow supposed to be a way to determine mastery or at least competence of a subject. What often happens is that students will learn to cram just to pass a test and teachers will be teaching with the sole purpose of students passing a test. Learning has been thrown out of the equation.

Finland has no standardized tests. Their only exception is something called the National Matriculation Exam, which is a voluntary test for students at the end of an upper-secondary school (equivalent to an American high school.) All children throughout Finland are graded on an individualized basis and grading system set by their teacher. Tracking overall progress is done by the Ministry of Education, which samples groups across different ranges of schools.

Accountability for teachers (not required)

A lot of the blame goes to the teachers and rightfully so sometimes. But in Finland, the bar is set so high for teachers, that there is often no reason to have a rigorous “grading” system for teachers. Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education and writer of Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Said that following about teachers’ accountability:

“There’s no word for accountability in Finnish… Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”

— Pasi Sahlberg

All teachers are required to have a master’s degree before entering the profession. Teaching programs are the most rigorous and selective professional schools in the entire country. If a teacher isn’t performing well, it’s the individual principal’s responsibility to do something about it.

The concept of the pupil-teacher dynamic that was once the master to apprentice cannot be distilled down to a few bureaucratic checks and standardized testing measures. It needs to be dealt with on an individual basis.

Cooperation not competition

While most Americans and other countries see the educational system as one big Darwinian competition, the Finns see it differently. Sahlberg quotes a line from a writer named Samuli Paronen which says that:

“Real winners do not compete.”

— Samuli Paronen

Ironically, this attitude has put them at the head of the international pack. Finland’s educational system doesn’t worry about artificial or arbitrary merit-based systems. There are no lists of top performing schools or teachers. It’s not an environment of competition – instead, cooperation is the norm.

Make the basics a priority

Many school systems are so concerned with increasing test scores and comprehension in math and science, they tend to forget what constitutes a happy, harmonious and healthy student and learning environment. Many years ago, the Finnish school system was in need of some serious reforms.

The program that Finland put together focused on returning back to the basics. It wasn’t about dominating with excellent marks or upping the ante. Instead, they looked to make the school environment a more equitable place.

Since the 1980s, Finnish educators have focused on making these basics a priority:

  • Education should be an instrument to balance out social inequality.
  • All students receive free school meals.
  • Ease of access to health care.
  • Psychological counseling
  • Individualised guidance

Beginning with the individual in a collective environment of equality is Finland’s way.

Starting school at an older age

Here the Finns again start by changing very minute details. Students start school when they are seven years old. They’re given free reign in the developing childhood years to not be chained to compulsory education. It’s simply just a way to let a kid be a kid.

There are only 9 years of compulsory school that Finnish children are required to attend. Everything past the ninth grade or at the age of 16 is optional.

Just from a psychological standpoint, this is a freeing ideal. Although it may anecdotal, many students really feel like they’re stuck in a prison. Finland alleviates this forced ideal and instead opts to prepare its children for the real world.

Providing professional options past a traditional college degree

The current pipeline for education in America is incredibly stagnant and immutable. Children are stuck in the K-12 circuit jumping from teacher to teacher. Each grade a preparation for the next, all ending in the grand culmination of college, which then prepares you for the next grand thing on the conveyor belt. Many students don’t need to go to college and get a worthless degree or flounder about trying to find purpose and incur massive debt.

Finland solves this dilemma by offering options that are equally advantageous for the student continuing their education. There is a lesser focused dichotomy of college-educated versus trade-school or working class. Both can be equally professional and fulfilling for a career.

In Finland, there is the Upper Secondary School which is a three-year program that prepares students for the Matriculation Test that determines their acceptance into a University. This is usually based off of specialties they’ve acquired during their time in “high-school”

Next, there is vocational education, which is a three-year program that trains students for various careers. They have the option to take the Matriculation test if they want to then apply to University.

Finns wake up later for less strenuous schooldays

Waking up early, catching a bus or ride, participating in morning and after school extracurriculars are huge time sinks for a student. Add to the fact that some classes start anywhere from 6am to 8am and you’ve got sleepy, uninspired adolescents on your hands.

Students in Finland usually start school anywhere from 9:00 – 9:45 AM. Research has shown that early start times are detrimental to students’ well-being, health, and maturation. Finnish schools start the day later and usually end by 2:00 – 2:45 AM. They have longer class periods and much longer breaks in between. The overall system isn’t there to ram and cram information to their students, but to create an environment of holistic learning.

Consistent instruction from the same teachers

There are fewer teachers and students in Finnish schools. You can’t expect to teach an auditorium of invisible faces and breakthrough to them on an individual level. Students in Finland often have the same teacher for up to six years of their education. During this time, the teacher can take on the role of a mentor or even a family member. During those years, mutual trust and bonding are built so that both parties know and respect each other.

Different needs and learning styles vary on an individual basis. Finnish teachers can account for this because they’ve figured out the student’s own idiosyncratic needs. They can accurately chart and care for their progress and help them reach their goals. There is no passing along to the next teacher because there isn’t one.

A more relaxed atmosphere

There is a general trend in what Finland is doing with its schools. Less stress, less unneeded regimentation and more caring. Students usually only have a couple of classes a day. They have several times to eat their food, enjoy recreational activities and generally just relax. Spread throughout the day are 15 to 20-minute intervals where the kids can get up and stretch, grab some fresh air and decompress.

This type of environment is also needed by the teachers. Teacher rooms are set up all over Finnish schools, where they can lounge about and relax, prepare for the day or just simply socialize. Teachers are people too and need to be functional so they can operate at the best of their abilities.

Less homework and outside work required

According to the OECD, students in Finland have the least amount of outside work and homework than any other student in the world. They spend only half an hour a night working on stuff from school. Finnish students also don’t have tutors. Yet they’re outperforming cultures that have toxic school-to-life balances without the unneeded or unnecessary stress.

Finnish students are getting everything they need to get done in school without the added pressures that come with excelling at a subject. Without having to worry about grades and busy-work they are able to focus on the true task at hand – learning and growing as a human being.

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