Living in Finland

Cities

Perusopetus
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Comprehensive education

All children residing in Finland permanently are subject to compulsory education, in other words, they must receive basic education. Compulsory education is stipulated by law.

Compulsory education

  • starts in the year in which the child turns seven.
  • ends when the syllabus for basic education is completed or at latest after 10 years of starting compulsory education.

Compulsory education is usually completed in comprehensive school. Comprehensive school consists of primary school (alakoulu) and secondary school (yläkoulu). Primary school includes grades one to six while the secondary school includes grades seven to nine. Comprehensive school normally lasts nine years: school begins in the first grade and ends in the ninth grade.

Comprehensive school is free.

linkkiStudyinfo.fi:
Comprehensive education for immigrantsFinnish | Swedish

Starting school

Children must be enrolled into school by their parents. The municipality sends a compulsory education notice (oppivelvollisuusilmoitus) to appropriate homes at the beginning of each year. The notice lists each child’s local school (lähikoulu). The local school is usually the school that is closest to home. Parents can also choose to send their child to a school other than the local school. However, it is not always possible to get your child a place in any other than the local school.

You can complete the school enrolment at your child’s local school. In some municipalities, you can also submit the enrolment online. The enrolment time is at the beginning of the year, usually in January.

Different schools

Your child may also attend a school that is specialised in a certain subject. Sometimes these schools are private schools. A school may specialise, among others, in the following things:

  • Art
  • Music
  • Physical education
  • Language
  • Internationality (for example European Schools)
  • Special pedagogy (for example, Steiner pedagogy)

Finland has a number of international schools. Some of these schools use some other language instead of Finnish. For example, in German Schools education is provided in German. Foreign language schools are available in larger cities. Foreign language classes may also be available in regular comprehensive schools.

linkkiEuropean School of Helsinki:
European School of HelsinkiFinnish | English | French

linkkiAssociation of Steiner Pedagogy:
Information on Steiner schoolsFinnish

School day and studying

School begins in August and ends in late May or early June. School is out for the summer during June and July.

The length of school days varies between grades. In primary school, the days are shorter than in secondary school. Individual classes usually take 45 minutes. A school week usually comprises approximately 20 classes.

Children have a single hot meal in school. It is free-of-charge. If your child has a special diet, please inform a teacher.

In comprehensive school, children study many compulsory subjects. In the final grades of primary school and in secondary school, they can also choose optional subjects.

In school, all children can receive education in their own religion or in ethics. Education in a particular religion must be arranged when a municipality contains at least three children of that religion.

Some schools have separate classes for students with talent in music or visual arts, for example. These classes normally require separate application.

Immigrants and comprehensive school

A child or young person may receive preparatory education for basic education, during which he or she will study Finnish (or Swedish) and some other subjects. Preparatory education is intended for all immigrant children whose skills are not yet good enough to attend basic education in a group. Preparatory education usually takes one year. After this, the student is transferred to a normal class.

If the child’s native language is not Finnish or Swedish, the municipality can arrange for education in the language in question. This allows the child to study Finnish or Swedish as a second language, i.e. S2 language (S2-kieli). A student will study Finnish (or Swedish) as a second language, if his or her Finnish or Swedish skills are not at a native level.

Upper secondary schools for adults organise basic education for adult immigrants who do not have a comprehensive school leaving certificate from their native country. Ask for more information at the counselling services of your municipality or at the nearest upper secondary school for adults. You can search for the contact information of upper secondary schools for adults through online search engines.

linkkiMinistry of Education and Culture:
Information on basic educationFinnish | Swedish | English

linkkiFinnish National Board of Education:
Information on basic educationFinnish | Swedish | English

Student support and tenth grade

Comprehensive school students are supported in their school work. Student counsellors talk to students about study methods and further education. They also provide career selection guidance.

Student psychologists and school social workers help students in problematic situations. Teachers can provide children with short-term remedial education.

Children who have difficulty learning and concentrating receive special needs education. Special needs groups are smaller than regular classes.

Teachers maintain contact with parents. They arrange meetings with parents and give parents information on their children’s studies. Many schools keep in contact with parents through online systems.

Schools may also provide additional education, i.e. the so-called tenth grade (kymppiluokka). These give students the chance to improve their grades and determine which field of study interests them.

You can apply for the tenth grade once you have received your certificate for completing comprehensive school. The tenth grade usually lasts one year.

linkkiStudyinfo.fi:
Information on the tenth gradeFinnish | Swedish