Why Finland Has the Best Education System in the World

Finland Best Education System

Finland’s education system has topped global rankings for years as one of the leading models in the world. Their approach focuses heavily on customization, creativity, and providing equal opportunities for all students to reach their potential.

So what makes Finland’s school system consistently outperform schools across Europe, Asia and the United States? Keep reading to learn what sets their K-12 education model apart and why it deserves its reputation as #1.

From prioritizing playtime over standardized tests to training highly qualified teachers that receive ongoing support, it’s clear Finland’s common sense practices pay off. Students enjoy higher levels of health, engagement and life satisfaction compared to peers abroad.

Finland also stands out by deliberately reducing education inequality. They offer free meals, learning materials, healthcare and counseling services so all families can send kids to school ready to learn without financial barriers.

Low-Stress, Customized Learning

A major appeal of Finland’s school system is their emphasis on keeping academic pressure low so students can learn at their own pace. Instead of standardized testing, teachers receive autonomy in customizing curriculum based on the strengths and needs of the children in their classroom.

There are no mandated statewide tests that all students must pass to progress each year. Each school designs their own assessments, focusing on formative tests that guide teaching rather than punish struggling students. Kids also get frequent breaks for relaxation and creative play, preventing the burnout often seen in other top-performing countries.

The typical school day runs just 4-5 hours long, spares lots of time for recreation, and limits homework. This well-balanced approach allows kids more time to play, socialize, rest and ultimately enjoy childhood.

By catering to each child’s talents, Finnish schools nurture creativity and collaboration versus overly competitive atmospheres. There are no elite gifted programs or remedial level classes that separate students by ability. The small class sizes also allow more individualized attention.

Highly-Trained and Supported Teachers

What sets Finnish teachers apart is the rigorous preparation they complete to earn certification, coupled with the high level of ongoing support they receive. Teachers attain master’s degree-level training entirely free of charge, even receiving a salary during the last two years while working in teaching labs attached to universities.

The programs emphasize pedagogy, child development, collaboration, adapting lessons to student needs, and getting practical experience before having one’s own classroom. With this clinical element prioritized, only about 10% of applicants get accepted yearly.

The training invests heavily in equipping teachers to spot and properly assist students who have learning difficulties or emotional issues that may interfere with academics. Special needs and inclusion practices are central parts of teacher education.

Once working in schools, educators enjoy continued career development opportunities and elevated community status. Instead of being bogged down by administrative burdens, Finnish teachers receive a high degree of autonomy and input when it comes to designing lessons, assessing students, and tailoring how they teach. There is also ample common planning time to collaborate with colleagues.

With superb training, ongoing growth opportunities and public support, talented individuals flock to the teaching profession in Finland. In turn, students reap the benefits of having passionate, highly-skilled teachers guiding their development.

Equality and Accessibility

Equity in education stands out as another hallmark of the Finnish model. Regardless of socioeconomic status, gender, abilities or background, every student receives free tuition, textbooks, transportation, meals, medical care, counseling and other services that promote inclusion.

Providing this high degree of access removes roadblocks that prevent students coming school ready to thrive. With basic needs fulfilled and support in place, teachers can better identify and assist children requiring extra help.

Instead of ability grouping that segments students into rigid tracked programs, Finnish schools use an inclusive model that educates 95-98% of all children in the same classroom. Those with minor disabilities or learning difficulties receive necessary accommodations while remaining with regular peers for a sense of belonging. Only the most severely impaired get assigned aides or transferred special schools.

With this unified mainstreaming method coupled with back-end equalization of resources, Finland achieves some of the smallest gaps in performance attributed to wealth inequality. Students routinely outpace international averages for standardized tests in reading, science and math across various demographic groups.

You see far less variances between native Finns and immigrant children or major urban and rural regions. Schools consistently help students overcome socioeconomic hurdles to thrive rather than cementing advantage.

Emphasis on Real-World Skills

While fundamentals like reading and math are still taught, many critics argue that traditional education models fail to equip students with the most essential competencies needed to navigate life outside school walls. Finnish institutions flip that script by deliberately focusing curriculum on cultivating critical thinking, creativity, communication skills, resilience, and problem-solving ability.

You see far more projects that deal with real-world topics and tasks students will likely encounter in college or career. Teachers give students more voice and choice picking subjects relevant to their interests and aspirations. There are also mandatory life skills courses covering practical lessons around nutrition, exercise, personal finances, healthcare and more to ease the transition to adulthood.

With teachers trained in crafting cross-disciplinary, student-centered exercises, kids get immersed in engaging, meaningful learning versus just memorizing facts to ace tests. By teaching students how to think versus what to think via standardized content, graduates develop higher levels of independence, civic participation and entrepreneurship.

This real-world skill focus coupled with diminished testing pressures helps nurture more mature, resilient young adults. Finland balances imparting knowledge with emotional intelligence to yield graduates better prepared for complexities of modern life.

Addressing Criticisms

While Finland’s education model earns well-deserved praise, skeptics question whether the approach truly equips students with adequate academic rigor or can scale to fit larger, more diverse populations.

Some argue that the flexibility and lack of standardized evaluations hampers competitiveness when applying to elite international universities or multi-national companies. There are also teacher shortages in certain regions like Helsinki along with some inadequacies around facilities and materials to accommodate rising immigration.

However, students still score among the highest for reading, math and science on the PISA global exam. And Finnish youth rank at the top for overall health and happiness outcomes shaped by school experience.

Additionally, the country systematically tracks data on career placements, earnings, job satisfaction and tertiary degree completion rates. Graduates enjoy stellar employment rates and career trajectories that outpace international peers in most measures.

So while the system faces challenges adapting to growth and globalization, Finland’s model still aligns better with modern research on how humans actually thrive and learn best. Their outside-the-box approach recognizes that academic metrics alone fail to reflect a fulfilling, prosperous society.


While no model is perfect, Finland’s K-12 system offers insightful takeaways for global reform. Their success underscores the merits of customizing curriculum to nurture student talents rather than forcing content through standardized instruction.

Providing more balanced, fun learning environments yields less stressed, disengaged kids. Letting play and creativity drive development prevents burnout while building essential life skills.

Investing in teacher training, autonomy and ongoing career growth also pays dividends through passionate, highly-skilled educators.

Making access to quality instruction truly equitable also allows students of all backgrounds to thrive by removing barriers. Rethinking ability grouping toward inclusion likewise keeps disadvantaged students on track.

While the Finnish approach may not fully translate abroad, these student-centered policies rooted in how children actually grow clearly demonstrate places where other countries can evolve. Priorities like child wellbeing over exam scores reflect a common sense path to raise healthier, more engaged learners.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What subjects do Finnish students study?

In basic education (grades 1-9), Finnish students study:

  • Mother tongue and literature (Finnish or Swedish)
  • The second national language (Swedish or Finnish)
  • Foreign languages
  • Environmental studies
  • Health education
  • Religion or ethics
  • History and social sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Geography
  • Physical education
  • Music
  • Art and crafts
  • Home economics

Q: Do Finnish students go to school on Saturdays?

No, Finnish students have school from Monday to Friday only. The school day runs approximately 4-5 hours long.

Q: What is the average class size in Finland?

The average classroom has about 20 students, allowing teachers to focus more attention on each child’s needs. For younger grades, classes may be smaller in the teens.

Q: How are struggling students supported?

Finnish schools provide extra assistance for students needing remedial education. Those significantly behind grade level in key subjects like reading or math may get placed in small special education groups temporarily until catching up.

Q: Do Finnish schools assign homework?

Most teachers assign little formal homework until middle school. Any after-school assignments emphasize quality over quantity, sparing time for leisure, hobbies and sleep.

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