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The Finnish School System

In Finland young people normally start school at the age of seven. Nine school years are compulsory, after that the students choose between general studies in upper secondary schools (lukio, which corresponds to a high school in the USA), vocational studies or work. Lukio is still the main route to universities and other higher education, though not the only one.

There is no school fee in Finland, and the students get free school lunch and medical care. The students must buy their own schoolbooks. At the age of 17 a student may apply for financial support for their studies from state funds.

Upper secondary school studies can take 2 to 4 years, although most students pass school in three years. Each student makes his/her own schedule. The school year is divided into 5-6 periods, each lasting about 6-7 weeks. During each period the students have from 5 to 8 courses in different subjects, and in successive periods a student may have a completely different choice of subjects. A minimum of 75 courses (one course is normally about 38 lessons long) is required.

After (or partly during) their studies the students have to attend a nationwide final examination, which is organized twice every year. Students can take part in 4 to 7 subjects, the possible choices being Finnish language, Swedish language (the second official language in Finland), first foreign language (mostly English), mathematics, "reaalikoe" (one or more of the following subjects: religion, philosophy, chemistry, physics, biology, geography and psychology) and other foreign languages (German, French, Spanish, Italian or Latin). When a student has passed this examination and also has enough courses in Lukio, he or she receives the final papers in a school matriculation celebration and may wear a white student´s cap.

Matriculation day means white caps and lots of roses.
More information about schools in Finland can be found in the pages of the National Board of Education.