Hi, are you moving to Finland?

Are you already familiar with the Finnish school system?
Come and listen, and we’ll tell you more!

Finns are proud of their school system, and no wonder: education is free from preschool to university – all the way up to your doctoral degree! And it’s not just the teaching that’s free of charge: you’ll get all of the textbooks, other learning materials and equipment that you’ll need in preschool, basic education, upper-secondary education and vocational education – as well as a tasty school meal. There are also a few fee-charging private schools in Finland, but we’ll only be telling you about state-run schools and free private schools.

Here are ten things that we think make the Finnish school system unique! This school really works:


The Finnish principle is that every school is a good school! Almost without exception, children start school at their local school. The school year begins in August and ends in early June. Although school terms and holidays vary slightly between municipalities, everyone has the same number of days at school per year.

When you study at a Finnish school, you usually have a few days of holiday in the autumn term and a week-long holiday in the spring term. Although the latter is known as a “ski holiday”, you don’t have to ski – you can enjoy your time off however you choose! The holiday season last about two weeks, and you’ll get a magnificent two and a half months off school over the summer!


Students don’t wear uniforms in Finland. You can dress however you like for school!


In Finland, even young children can safely travel to school on their own or with friends. Your school will often be so close to home that you can easily walk or cycle.

If you’re in preschool or basic education and you live more than 5 km from your school, your home municipality will arrange transport to school either by public transport or a school taxi. This is also the case if your journey is otherwise deemed to be too difficult, strenuous or dangerous in light of your age or some other circumstances. In many municipalities, younger students get free rides to school over distances of only 3 km, while older students (upper-secondary and vocational schools) are paid a travel allowance for trips of more than 7 km.


In August, the Finnish media reminds adults to drive carefully as there will be “yellow rookies” on the move! This is because first-year students wear yellow baseball caps and will be practicing going to school by themselves.


The length of the school day varies in Finland: the younger the student, the shorter the day. On some days, it might only last 3 hours, for example, from 9 am to 12 noon. The minimum amount of lesson time for younger students is 20 hours per week. This gradually increases year by year, so that ninth graders have about 30 hours of lessons per week.  Finland is the best country in the world in terms of the learning results achieved in comparison to the number of hours students spend at school.

Schools have the freedom to set the pace of study to ensure that it is appropriate for both learning and doing meaningful work. The length of a lesson is usually 45 minutes. However, lessons often consist of two such sessions combined. 

Finnish basic education consists of about 20 school subjects. You can also choose to study a variety of optional subjects. The curriculum also requires that, during each academic year, every school must have at least one theme, project or series of lessons that combines different subjects. The topics, duration and method of implementing these modules will vary according to the needs and interests of each school.


In winter, physical education classes in Finnish schools include skiing and ice skating!


Teachers in Finland are autonomous. This means that teachers are responsible for the learning and other activities of their own student groups. Teachers can independently decide on which teaching methods they use, as long as they follow the curriculum.  The Finnish curriculum provides a strong nationwide foundation on the basis of which schools and municipalities may choose their own particular focus. In addition to teaching, the teacher plays an important role in supporting the holistic growth and wellbeing of their students in cooperation with the school’s other professionals.

In Finland, teachers often work and teach in teams. Through co-teaching, teachers aim to ensure that you and every student can learn in the best possible way for ex. using flexible groups. There are no school inspectors in Finland, so in order to assure high-quality teaching, we have a common curriculum and all teachers must complete a master’s degree and Finland’s excellent teacher training programme. All teachers are trained as specialists in educational tasks during their teacher training, and they have a valued position and extensive social responsibility


In Finland, students address their teachers either by their first names or the generic term “teacher”!


Students in Finnish schools study in a broad range of safe and inspiring learning environments. In addition to classrooms, you can learn while walking outdoors or during a visit to a museum or company. Digital environments also are an integral part of school learning environments. Technology is playing an increasingly important role in everyday learning. 

Finnish schools make use of a broad range of working methods: experimenting, researching, activities, exercise and play all support the learning of important skills! And what’s more, students are listened to in Finnish schools – which means you also get to participate in the design of your learning environments and working methods!


Finnish schools are mainly “sock schools”. This means that you take your shoes off when you arrive, and leave them in the hallway or by the coatracks in front of your classroom.


It doesn’t matter if you can’t speak Finnish or Swedish (the official languages of Finland) when you start attending a Finnish school. Finnish or Swedish is taught to everyone! If your native language is something other than Finnish or Swedish, or if you come from a multilingual family, you will be offered studies in Finnish as a second language (S2). You will continue your S2 studies until you have sufficient skills to study the regular Finnish language and literature curriculum. Finnish schools also offer good support for learning and maintaining your own native language. Municipalities may offer a broad range of lessons in your native language or the language you speak at home. 

Finnish schools are obliged to provide students with adequate support for learning and school attendance as soon as the need arises. These forms of support include remedial teaching and part-time special education. Support measures are planned on a long-term basis, and must be flexible and adaptable to each student’s need for support. 


In Helsinki (the capital of Finland), schools have a selection of more than 40 languages in which they can provide lessons in a student’s native language or the language they speak at home. Maybe yours is included!


Finland is considered to be a model country when it comes to school meals. This is because Finland has a long history of providing supervised free meals at school. When you’re eating, you’re also learning, as teachers eat with their students and act as role models at the lunch table. School meals are designed to provide a healthy and comprehensive diet. They also take sustainable development into account, as well as a range of dietary restrictions and ethnic backgrounds. Naturally, the meals are also tasty and have a home-cooked feel. Many cities also try to source their ingredients as locally as possible.


Many schools in Finland have a weekly vegetarian day! A vegetarian option is usually available on other days as well.


The Finnish school day is broken up by several breaks, which you will usually spend outside in the schoolyard with your friends. You will usually get either two longer breaks (30 mins) or several shorter breaks (15 mins) per day. Breaks are important – we know that they make us more alert and support our learning and overall wellbeing. Most importantly, breaks help to increase our sense of school being a nice, safe place! To ensure pleasant and active school days, Finnish schools have developed practices and schoolyards that encourage physical activity during break times. This extra movement helps to offset all the sitting down. 

Schoolyards have been designed to provide students with a broad range of activities and exercise. Schoolyards are also open to everyone, so you can even play in the schoolyard after school. In the summer, you can see children happily playing football or basketball in the schoolyard – or skating or playing ice hockey in the winter. 


In Finnish schools, you go outdoors whatever the weather! You’ll spend break times outside even when it’s freezing cold or pouring down with rain! But don’t worry – you’ll be dressed appropriately for the weather in warm or waterproof clothing.


Most municipalities in Finland organise morning and afternoon activities around the school day. So,if you’re a first or second grader, you might also have the chance to engage in safe and fun activities before and after school. In many places, morning and afternoon activities are organised between 7 am and 5 pm – and usually at least in the afternoons. These activities aim to support educational work both at home and at school, and to increase the number of safe and professional adults in a child’s life. You also get a healthy snack during these activities. The activities are usually subject to a monthly fee that varies between municipalities, but is usually around a hundred euros.


In Finland, students can spend a few hours home alone or with friends until their parents come home from work! Although you can naturally participate in organised activities at school clubs or municipal youth facilities instead.


Early childhood education and care for younger children is an important part of the Finnish education system. The first few years of life are seen as a significant stage in a person’s growth and learning. 

In Finland, early childhood education and care covers the years from infancy to the start of basic education. It promotes equality and non-discrimination among children, and prevents social exclusion. Early childhood education and care also supports parents’ educational work and allows them to work and study. In Finland, early childhood education and care is very affordable for families. The price varies depending on the parents’ income – from being completely free of charge to a few hundred euros per month.

Preschool education is free, and is given to children in the year preceding their compulsory education. Recently, many municipalities have also been running a two-year preschool experiment to promote equal access to education.  Preschool education respects a child’s interests and uses early childhood pedagogy.  Preschool days are short, just like school days for younger students. After preschool, children can spend the rest of the day in safe early childhood care, for which a small fee may be charged.

Together, early childhood education, preschool education and basic education form a systematic and cohesive learning path and a solid foundation for lifelong learning.


Activities for children aged 0–6 mainly revolve around play and creativity! More school-like work will begin at the age of six at the earliest, but even then, teaching is built around themes and working methods that will interest children!