What I’ve learned about the Finnish education system from my fellow students

We have two literature students from Finland that are training to teach in secondary schools with us in Slovakia. We have been discussing our own education systems with each other and this is what I have found out so far about their system:

Finland is a small country, 5 million people, 3000 schools
All Education is free, including meals
Students are paid to go to university €500 a month
The degree courses are longer, and teachers study at masters level, our two students were in their 5th year of studying at university
You need to take an exam to get into university which is different from the A-levels you take.
Children start school much later, at 6/7. Some go to preschool for one or two years before, this is becoming more common.
Teachers are trained in specialist training schools that are different from regular schools.

The school day is typically 7am – 1pm
There is a focus on student talk and group work above teacher talk, with a good lesson having more student than teacher talk.
Children are not good at raising their hands in class

Hanna and Elina
Finland has several universities, more than you might expect for such a small population but not all teach all subjects.
University of Helsinki is where Elina and Hanna study. Helsinki is the oldest university, established in 1640, in Turku, but was burned down and moved in 1829 to Helsinki (along with the capital), as this was closer to Russia, and further from Sweden. Two official languages, Finnish and Sweden. University has 35k students, 11 faculties and ranked in the top 100 universities world wide.

Education system
Free through to Higher Educaiton. Free books, school lunch. Even private schools are not allowed to charge.
Preschool is run by kindergarten, free or very low cost, closer to our form of daycare. Starts around 2 years old.
9 year compulsory basic comprehensive school for everyone starts at age 7 to 16.
After comprehensive school students apply for either lukio (preparation for HE) or vocational school. need a minimum grade qualification to enter the Lukio, some are basically selective, with high grades (scales form 4-10, some may require grade 9 but generally need a grade 7 to get to HE prep school). Some lukio may specialise in arts or other subjects. Can still apply for Univeristy from vocational schools. Around 50% go to each school, fairly equal can get into work more quickly.

Comprehensive school
– two phases 7-12 and 13-16. No standardised testing, even at the end of school. Purely based on teacher assessment.

Take 75 study points, can be done over 3 or 4 years. Study all the subjects, cannot focus on social science or something else, everyone does everything! Do choose particular subjects to study in depth.

Matriculation examination at the end of comprehensive school is a minimum of 4 subjects. The only standardised test, Finnish and literature is the compulsory subject. Get bonus points from these exams for university entrance but not worth a lot in relation to the university entrance exam which is more important.

Vocational school
Usually 3 years, gives you a profession, includes more general subject knowledge too, maths, Finnish. Extra subjects are dependent on the vocation, so travel agents would study languages.

University entrance exam
HE can take a long time, Hanna is still studying and will be 28 when she graduates

Teacher training
Primary teachers have a five year degree, masters in educational sciences.
High school teachers have a masters degree in their sect then educational sciences as a one year programme in addition. Separation application process for teacher training, lots of competition to get in. Can be taken as part of your degree, or after following graduation having worked for a few years (like UK PGCE).

Works on study points, need 300 to graduate. Can take different amounts of points per year, so students often work while studying, and take longer to graduate.

Teaching system
Teachers have a lot of freedom, mo inspections, national curriculum leaves room for creativity
Salary is over the average income in the county 2010 €3550, starting salary €2400 per month for primary teachers, €2800 secondary teachers. Extra money for marking matriculation exams, can be a class leader for extra money €100/ month.
16-18 hours teaching per week minimum, but lots of marking outside that. Primary school 25 teaching hours per week.
Teacher’s well appreciated in society, usually in the top ten of wanted jobs. But still at least 30% drop out rate from teaching, mainly due to responsibility, demands and problems with disciplines are the key reasons that people leave.
Demanding job with a lot of responsibility and commitment is important.

The students feel that the PISA results are due to a culture of equality, and that all schools are the same everywhere, all teachers are well trained. There is a long history of social democracy after the civil war.

Being a teacher involves:
Planning lessons, teaching, assessing, being a class leader, cooperation with students parents, working with colleagues. Important focus on self development and learning new techniques continuously. Class leader is the equivalent of a tutor group.

May take a while to get a permanent job, can take maternity cover jobs or other temporary jobs. Competition is quite high especially in the cities where the population density is higher. Retirement is at 63, raising to 65 in future years.

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