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Education in Finland - statistics & facts

The Finnish education system is based on a comprehensive education structure, which is offered free of charge at all levels, from pre-primary to higher education. Compulsory education consists of one-year pre-primary and a nine-year basic education for children aged 7-16. The Finnish school system has attracted worldwide attention, since the country has scored high in PISA tests and other international rankings throughout the 2000s. In recent years, the Nordic country has shown a decline in performance, but Finnish students still continue to perform well above the OECD average.

Basic education is offered at comprehensive schools, which include lower comprehensive school grades 1-6 and upper comprehensive school grades 7-9. Children typically enter comprehensive schools in the year they are turning seven years old. There is no division into primary and lower secondary education, and compulsory education ends after the completion of the education syllabus or by the age of 16. In 2021, there were over half a million students attending almost 2,140 comprehensive schools in the country. While the number of schools has declined over the past decade, public spending on basic education per pupil has increased at the same time. In general, Finland’s schools are publicly funded and there are no mandatory standardized tests during basic education.

Most of students continue their education in upper secondary schools immediately after basic education. Upper secondary education is split into two paths, general and vocational, which both usually take three years to complete. Over half of the students choose to go to upper secondary general schools, which prepare students for higher education. In their final year, students take a national matriculation exam, which qualifies for entry into university. Vocational education is more practice-orientated and on-the-job learning is a key element of the studies. Vocational education covers eight fields, of which technology, communication and transport was the largest, with over 91 thousand students. Although vocational education and training leads first and foremost to a profession, a vocational certificate provides equal eligibility for further studies.

In a similar manner, higher education is divided into two sectors; academic universities and more professionally-oriented universities of applied sciences. As of 2021, there are 14 universities, which had in total almost 160 thousand registered students. Most university students aim for a Master's degree, and over half of the university degrees and qualifications are completed by female students. At the same time, there were over 51 thousand students admitted at the 22 Finnish universities of applied sciences. Over one third of the degrees and qualifications were attained in the fields of health and welfare, followed by business, administration and law, as well as engineering, manufacturing and construction.

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