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Descriptions of the legal system for assessment - Finland

The Official Norms and Strategies of Assessment and Evaluation in Finnish Basic Education

Fundamental educational rights are enshrined in the Constitution of Finland. The parliament passes legislation governing education and determines the basic principles underpinning education policy. The Government and the Ministry of Education are jointly responsible for preparing and implementing education policy.

The Ministry of Education is responsible for education funded from the state budget.

The government determines the general objectives of basic education and the division of classroom hours between different subjects (Basic Education Act 628/1998, Basic Education Degree 652/1998, Government Degree of General objectives and distribution of lesson hours 20.12.2001/1435). The National Board of Education decides on the aims and core contents of teaching in different subjects, recording them in a national core curriculum (National Core Curriculum 2004), which education providers and schools use as the basis for their curricula. The National Board of Education, which is subordinate to the Ministry, is responsible for developing education, enhancing its effectiveness and monitoring education provision.

The Ministry of Education drafts legislation and government decisions pertaining to general education and steers activities in the sector according to policy outlined in the Government Programme and the development plan.

The Government adopts a development plan for education and science every four years. The current development plan for education concerns 2003 - 2008. Preparation of a new development plan for 2007 - 2012 has already begun. The work demands the systematic and effective gathering of assessment information from national education. The policy outlined in the development plan for education and research influences the quality, quantity and structure of education, notably target numbers, for the following four years and beyond.

The evaluation of education is compulsory by law and concerns all areas of education. It is stipulated in the Basic Education Act, General Upper Secondary Schools Act, Vocational Education and Training Act, Liberal Adult Education Act and Act on Basic Education in the Arts enforced 1 January 1999. In 2003 a Government decree on the evaluation of education was issued. The Act on Higher Education Evaluation Council was issued in 1995.

Education providers have a statutory duty to evaluate their own activities and participate in external evaluations. Evaluation is used to collect data in support of education policy decisions and as a background for information and performance-based steering. Education is evaluated locally, regionally and nationally. Finland also takes part in international reviews.

Evaluation findings are used in the development of the education system, the core curricula and in teaching. These findings and international comparative data also provide a tool for monitoring the realisation of equality and equity in education.

Quantitative and content development in education entails estimates of future educational and labour needs. These education foresights form part of education policy steering and decision-making, which influence matters far into the future. One important on-going development is the change in the age structure of the population and work force. At present the annual exit from the labour force exceeds the entry.

In administrative terms, the Ministry is responsible for quantitative foresight and the National Board of Education and the higher education institutions for qualitative foresight.

Central Features of Educational Assessment and Evaluation

Finnish education policy aims for flexibility in administration. The administration of education is strongly based on delegation and support. Centralised steering and guiding is based on the national norms of education, laws and decrees as well as the national core curriculum. There is no longer any inspection system in Finland; these activities were discontinued in Finland in the early 1990s. This means that central guidelines and steering is provided at central administrative level and the implementation of the norms is carried out at local level. The central feature of administration is the spirit of trust between the administrative and the local levels. The interaction between national and municipal authorities and schools is also good. The local municipalities have a strong role and  responsibility in planning, arranging and assessing the lessons.



  • A Framework for Evaluating Educational Results in Finland (1999). National Board of Education. Arvioimalla laatua koulutukseen- Ajatuksia paikalliseen ja seudulliseen arviointiin (2006). Niemi, E.K.. Opetushallitus.
  • Evaluation of the Equal Opportunities in the Finnish Comprehensive Schools 1998- 2001 (2002). Jakku- Sihvonen, R. & Kuusela, J.. Opetushallitus.
  • Johdatus koulutuksen uudistuvaan arviointikulttuuriin (2001). Jakku-Sihvonen, R. & Heinonen, S.. Opetushallitus.
  • Koulutuksen paikallinen arviointi vuonna 2003 (2005). Löfström, E., Metsämuuronen, J., Niemi, E.K., Salmio, K., Stenvall, K.. Opetushallitus.
  • Mahdollisuuksien koulutuspolitiikan tasa-arvo (2003). Jakku-Sihvonen, R. & Kuusela, J.. Opetushallitus.
  • Perusopetuksen opetussuunnitelman perusteet 2004. Opetushallitus. (National Core Curriculum 2004. National Board of Education.)
  • Perusopetuslaki 628/ 1998 ja –asetus 852/1998. (Basic Education Act and Basic EducationDecree)
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