General Survey: Finnish education has two tracks for secondary education: general upper secondary education and vocational education and training. Both tracks are for students from 16 to 19 years of age. The number of students enrolled in upper secondary schools in 1999 was 111,328.
The general upper secondary education schools are for students who plan to attend university. The vocational education and training schools are for students who are transitioning to the workplace upon completion of their secondary education. Students in both tracks may take the national matriculation examination and attend university if their scores are competitive.
The objective of general upper secondary education is to promote the development of students into good, balanced and civilized individuals and members of society and to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary in further studies, working life, personal interests and the versatile development of their personality. Moreover, the education shall support the students' opportunity for lifelong learning and self-development during their lives. (Upper Secondary Schools Act 629/1998)
There are about 250 students in the average upper secondary school. Admission is based on completion of comprehensive school with students selected based on their previous study record. Students progress through their studies at their own pace within the context of a three-year curriculum. About half of the students complete upper secondary school.
Curriculum—Examinations & Diplomas: The curriculum is divided into compulsory, specialized, and applied courses. The curriculum in the upper secondary schools consists of 38 lessons organized around the following subjects: mother tongue and literature (Finnish or other national language), foreign language, a second foreign language, environmental studies, civics, religion or ethics, history, social studies, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, physical education, music, visual arts, crafts, and home economics. Language instruction accounts for less than one-third of instructional time in comprehensive schools. Science and mathematics in the upper secondary schools constitute somewhat more than one-third of instructional time. This is a slight modification of instructional time in comprehensive schools. Instruction in the social sciences and humanities comprises about 18 percent of instructional time. The remaining 16 percent of instructional time is divided among art, physical education, and other courses, including religion or ethics.
The National Board of Education is responsible for the core objectives and the overall curriculum. Within these guidelines, the schools prepare a local curriculum. The matriculation examination is developed nationally with a centralized body to check examinations according to uniform criteria. Students are tested in four compulsory areas: Mother tongue, the other national language, a foreign language, and either mathematics or general studies. Students may chose to complete the examinations in three separate or one continuous examination period.
Teachers: Teachers in secondary schools are required to obtain a master's degree in the subject matter in which they will be teaching. There are 6,491 teachers in 447 secondary schools.
Vocational Education: Vocational training is largely conducted within vocational schools but efforts are underway to increase the number of apprenticeships to 10 percent of all enrollees. By law, local authorities have to maintain one place in vocational education for every 1,000 inhabitants. Around 45 percent of students between 16 and 19 years of age attend vocational schools. Local and national governments mutually fund the vocational institutes.
The training programs for vocational education are built on the comprehensive school curriculum. The curriculum consists of 120 credits: 20 credits of on the job learning, 90 credits of core subjects, and 10 credits chosen by the student. The core subjects are Finnish, Swedish, mathematics, physics and chemistry, social, business and labor-market subjects, physical and health education, and art and culture. Graduates from these programs may apply for admission to polytechnics or universities. Teachers in the vocational program usually have a master's degree or a polytechnic degree, three years of work experience in the field, and 35 credits in pedagogy.
The objective of initial vocational education is to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary for acquiring vocational expertise and with capabilities for self-employment. The further objectives of the education are to promote the students' development into good and balanced individuals and members of society, to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary in further studies, personal interests and the versatile development of personality, and to promote lifelong learning. (Vocational Education Act 630 1998)
In order to attend vocation schools, one must have completed the comprehensive school syllabus. Admission is generally based on comprehensive school performance, but students may arrange to take aptitude tests, and the applicants' work experience may also be considered. The program is generally three years long. On completion of the program, students may take the national matriculation examination and pursue their education at either a university or polytechnic. There were about 122,000 students enrolled in vocational schools in 2000.
Adult Education: More than 1 million Finns participate in some type of adult education, accounting for about 10 million classroom hours. This education is arranged by universities, polytechnics, vocational institutions, adult education centers and summer universities, adult upper secondary schools, study centers, sports institutes, and music institutes. There are also options for on-line courses and distance learning. Generally, adults engage in further education that is related to their employment. Courses allow adults to upgrade and update their employment-related knowledge and skills; however, this is not the only type of course adults take. Many adults are also interested in self-improvement and take courses in social studies and civic education.
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