Education in Finland

Education in Finland is an education system with no tuition fees and with fully subsidised meals served to full-time students. The present education system in Finland consists of daycare programmes (for babies and toddlers) and a one-year "pre-school" (or kindergarten for six-year-olds); a nine-year compulsory basic comprehensive school (starting at age seven and ending at the age of sixteen); post-compulsory secondary general academic and vocational education; higher education (University and University of applied sciences); and adult (lifelong, continuing) education. The Finnish strategy for achieving equality and excellence in education has been based on constructing a publicly funded comprehensive school system without selecting, tracking, or streaming students during their common basic education. Part of the strategy has been to spread the school network so that pupils have a school near their homes whenever possible or, if this is not feasible, e.g. in rural areas, to provide free transportation to more widely dispersed schools. Inclusive special education within the classroom and instructional efforts to minimize low achievement are also typical of Nordic educational systems.

After their nine-year basic education in a comprehensive school, students at the age of 16 may choose to continue their secondary education in either an academic track (lukio) or a vocational track (ammattikoulu), both of which usually take three years and give a qualification to continue to tertiary education. Tertiary education is divided into university and polytechnic (ammattikorkeakoulu, also known as "university of applied sciences") systems. Universities award licentiate- and doctoral-level degrees. Formerly, only university graduates could obtain higher (postgraduate) degrees, however, since the implementation of the Bologna process, all bachelor's degree holders can now qualify for further academic studies. There are 17 universities and 27 universities of applied sciences in the country.

The Education Index, published with the UN's Human Development Index in 2008, based on data from 2006, lists Finland as 0.993, amongst the highest in the world, tied for first with Denmark, Australia and New Zealand. The Finnish Ministry of Education attributes its success to "the education system (uniform basic education for the whole age group), highly competent teachers, and the autonomy given to schools."

Finland has consistently ranked high in the PISA study, which compares national educational systems internationally, although in the recent years Finland has been displaced from the very top. In the 2012 study, Finland ranked sixth in reading, twelfth in mathematics and fifth in science, while back in the 2003 study Finland was first in both science and reading and second in mathematics. Finland's tertiary Education has moreover been ranked first by the World Economic Forum.

While celebrated for its overall success, Finland's gender gap on the 2012 PISA reading examinations was identified in a 2015 Brookings Institution report as the largest among participating nations. The performance of 15-year-old boys on that reading examination was not significantly different from OECD averages and 0.66 standard deviations behind that of girls the same age.

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