16 surprising facts about Finland’s unorthodox education system

This was in the Journal.ie

SINCE IT implemented huge education reforms 40 years ago, Finland’s school system has consistently come at the top of international rankings for education systems.

So how do they do it?

It’s simple — by going against the evaluation-driven, centralised model that much of the Western world uses.

1. Finnish children don’t start school until they are 7.
  • 1. Finnish children don’t start school until they are 7.

  • 2. They rarely take exams or do homework until they are well into their teens. The children are not measured at all for the first six years of their education.

  • 3. There is only one mandatory standardised test in Finland, taken when children are 16.

  • 4. Finland spends around 30 per cent less per student than the US. All children, regardless of ability, are taught in the same classrooms.

  • 5. Thirty per cent of children receive extra help during their first nine years of school.

  • 6. Sixty-six per cent of students go to college.

  • 7. The difference between the weakest and strongest students in the smallest in the world.

  • 8. Ninety-three per cent of Finns graduate from high school.

  • 9. Forty-three per cent of Finnish second-level students go to vocational schools.

  • 10. Teachers only spend four hours a day in the classroom, and take two hours a week for “professional development”.

  • 11. The school system is 100% state funded.

  • 12. The national curriculum is only a broad guideline.

    (Image: n0rthw1nd on Flickr via Creative Commons)

  • 13. All teachers in Finland must have a masters degree, which is fully subsidised.

  • 14. Teachers are selected from the top 10 per cent of graduates and their average starting salary in 2008 was $22,235. Last year, 6,600 applicants vied for 660 primary school training positions.

  • 15. High school teachers with 15 years of experience earn 102 per cent more than other college graduates.

  • 16. In an international standardised measurement in 2001, Finnish children came top or very close to the top for science, reading and maths.

    I wonder what percemtage of the population are emigrants? Here’s the stats according to wikipedie:
  • Ethnic minorities & languagesNo official statistics are kept on ethnicities. However, statistics of the Finnish population according to language and citizinship are available.The Finnish and Swedish languages are defined as languages of the state. Additionally, Swedish is an official municipal language in municipalities with significant Swedish-speaking populations. The three Sami languages (North Sami, Inari Sami, Skolt Sami) are official in certain municipalities of Lapland.

    Finnish people — Finns — speak the Finnish language, which the dominant language and is spoken almost everywhere in the country. Native Finnish speakers are otherwise recognized as an ethnicity.

    Population of mainland Finland (excluding Aland) according to language, 1990-2010 [1]

    Language 1990 2000 2010                                      %
    Finnish 4,674,095 4,787,259 4,856,529
    Swedish 273,495 267,488 265,982                        5.47 %
    Sami 1,734 1,734 1,832                            0.03%
    Foreign languages: 24,550 98,858 222,926                         4.5%
    Russian 3,884 28,179 54,546                           1.12%
    Estonian 1,394 10,153 28,355                           0.58%
    Somali 0 6,454 12,985                          0.26%
    English 3,518 6,850 12,758                           0.26%
    Arabic 1,133 4,875 10,379                           0.21%


  • Pecentages are calculated by me. In comparison to the state of Connecticut which has 32% of an immigrant population, Finland has 12.43% of an immigrant population.

  • The classification of the Swedish-speakers as an ethnicity is controversial. The government only considers the “working language”, Finnish or Swedish, of the person, and “bilinguality” has no official standing. Significant populations of Swedish-speakers are found in coastal areas, from Ostrobothnia to the southern coast, and in the archipelago of Åland. Coastal cities, however, are majority Finnish-speaking, with a few small towns as exceptions. There are very few Swedish-speakers in the inland.

  • If America spends 30% more on education per child it is possibly because of a higher number of immigrants?

  • Wikipedia states the following statistics for USA

  • Immigration by state
    Percentage change in Foreign Born Population 1990 to 2000
    North Carolina 273.7% South Carolina 132.1% Mississippi 95.8% Wisconsin 59.4% Vermont 32.5%
    Georgia 233.4% Minnesota 130.4% Washington 90.7% New Jersey 52.7% Connecticut 32.4%
    Nevada 202.0% Idaho 121.7% Texas 90.2% Alaska 49.8% New Hampshire 31.5%
    Arkansas 196.3% Kansas 114.4% New Mexico 85.8% Michigan 47.3% Ohio 30.7%
    Utah 170.8% Iowa 110.3% Virginia 82.9% Wyoming 46.5% Hawaii 30.4%
    Tennessee 169.0% Oregon 108.0% Missouri 80.8% Pennsylvania 37.6% North Dakota 29.0%
    Nebraska 164.7% Alabama 101.6% South Dakota 74.6% California 37.2% Rhode Island 25.4%
    Colorado 159.7% Delaware 101.6% Maryland 65.3% New York 35.6% West Virginia 23.4%
    Arizona 135.9% Oklahoma 101.2% Florida 60.6% Massachusetts 34.7% Montana 19.0%
    Kentucky 135.3% Indiana 97.9% Illinois 60.6% Louisiana 32.6% Maine 1.1%

    Source: U.S. Census 1990 and 2000


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