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Preamble - Finland

The Finnish education and science policy emphasises quality, efficiency and equality, based on empowerment. It is flexible and the administration is strongly based on delegation and support. The Centralised management is conducted through the aims set by laws and decrees as well as by the national core curriculum. Municipalities are responsible for the organisation of education and the implementation of the aims. Schools and teachers have a great deal of  independent autonomy in the provision and the contents of education. It is the statutory duty of the local authorities to provide education for children of compulsory school age living in their areas. The local school curriculum is based on the national core curriculum. Practical teaching arrangements are the responsibility of the education provider, who is generally the local authority or a municipal education consortium. Local schools have an important role in developing local educational provision. Every year each school prepares a work plan to structure its learning and teaching practices.

These are the key principles in Finnish basic education and it is according to these key principles that development work is implemented in Finnish schools. Developing educational practices requires efficient tools of assessment that cover the national and local level as well as the individual level of pupil assessment. 

The Finnish education system is composed of nine years of basic education (comprehensive school for 7- 16 year old pupils), preceded by one year of voluntary pre-primary education (6- years old); upper secondary education, comprising vocational and general education; and higher education, provided by universities and polytechnics. All children have the right to participate in voluntary pre-primary education during the year preceding compulsory schooling. Nearly all 6-year-olds do so (97 %). A Finnish child usually starts school at the age of seven. The nine-year basic schooling is free for all pupils. Compulsory schooling starts in the year when the child turns seven and ends when the basic education syllabus has been completed or after ten years in compulsory education.

If, because of a child’ s disability or illness the objectives set for basic education cannot be achieved in nine years, compulsory schooling must begin one year earlier than usually. In such a case the child begins her/ his compulsory education in pre-primary school at the age of 6. Compulsory schooling has a limit of eleven years.

Young people who have completed their compulsory schooling can opt for one extra year. This voluntary education is intended to help and encourage young people to continue their studies at the upper secondary level. Approximately 3 % of students take this opportunity.

In Finland, pre-primary education, basic education and upper secondary education and training, complemented by early childhood education and before and after school activities, form a coherent learning pathway that supports children’s growth, development and well-being.

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