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.