Saturday, 25 July 2009

The Education System of Finland: Some History

Observers of the Finnish education system, even in the beginnings of the early twentieth century, noted its excellence.  

For example, in 1926, Fox wrote, "The educational system in Finland is excellent.  There is practically no illiteracy, and every young citizen has a chance of obtaining a University education" (p. 129).  

Fox also stated, "Primary school, secondary school, and University education flourish in Finland.  The three Universities have yearly increasing numbers of students.  The great extent of the international recognition of Finnish scholarship gives proof of the soundness of the country's educational system" (p. 132).

The beginnings of Finnish education, much like in other countries, has roots in the church.  The movement for education and literacy began with the reforms of Mikael Agricola in the sixteenth century.  In the seventeenth century, the church began the ambitious task of teaching the nation to read.  The church required all those wishing to marry to be literate.  Furthermore, in 1686, the church demanded that all should be able to read a considerable number of religious texts.  Therefore, the church's influence on education, in addition to educational programs initiated by the state, allowed for high levels of literacy at an early date.  The first records for literacy, in 1880, chronicled 97.6% of Finns over ten years of age literate.  

The nineteenth century also called for education beyond church walls.  In 1863, training began for teachers of non-church education in Jyvaskyla.  In 1866 the Senate passed a law establishing folk schools.  After independence, a universal School Attendance Act was passed, and the country provided free education for everyone aged seven to sixteen.  

Although the growth of Finnish education followed a similar pattern to that of most industrialized countries, this development came later.  For example, the Compulsory Education Act came later than other European countries, even Nordic countries, in 1921.  

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