Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Special Features of the Finnish Education System: Steering and Financing of Educational Services in Finland

Timo Lankinen spoke about the steering and financing of the educational services in Finland, addressing the economics and administration of education.

Here are the notes from his presentation:

Features of the Finnish education system:
  • equal opportunities
  • regional accessibility
  • decentralized since the 1990s -- municipally administered
  • publicly funded
  • free, e.g. meals, travel, materials (no university fees either)
  • state financial aid scheme
  • learning environment -- individual attention, innovation, recognition of prior learning
  • virtuous cycle of teaching, e.g. low acceptance rate to teacher education
  • Welfare State
Structure of the education system:
  • polytechnics -- creation was the largest reform in the 1990s (upgraded to higher education level)
  • polytechnic Master's degrees, after three years of work experience
  • expansion and amalgamation of universities. Universities are under state control, while polytechnics are under municipal or company control
  • students in education -- lower enrollment, less population in age cohort
  • expenditure: 10 billion Euros overall, basic education 36.5% of expenditure
Pre-primary and basic education
  • six-year-olds have the right to (free) schooling, but the municipalities organize care. This way children are prepared before basic education. (Day care teachers are trained in universities.)
  • basic education -- from 7 to 16 years. Class teachers for the first six years, then subject teachers for the last three years
  • local authorities assign a place, but there is school choice
  • maintained by municipalities
  • basic education core curriculum -- a national core curriculum, from the Board of Education but administered in the local system
History of Finnish Education
  • Reforms 1972-1977 to comprehensive school from a parallel school
  • core curriculum reviewed in 1985, 1994, and 2004 -- strengthened the role of the municipality, strengthened special needs education, increased the importance of home-school relation
Post-comprehensive schools
  • new movement to have a combination of vocation school and gymnasium
  • more students to initial vocational education -- a growing sector
  • 97% of students go directly to upper secondary school
  • general education allows eligibility to further studies
  • polytechnic students are also eligible for higher education
Matriculation exam
  • based on the national curriculum
  • four tests minimum: mother tongue (Finnish or Swedish), mathematics, foreign language, general
Vocational Education and Training
  • work-based learning
  • apprentice based training
  • licence from ministry, but provided by municipalities or companies
  • Initial vocational education and training: 53 qualifications, 116 study programs
  • qualifications by registered vocational education and training providers
  • qualifications set by the National Board of Education
  • different ways to acquire a qualification -- curriculum based and demonstration based
Higher Education
  • universities and polytechnics
  • universities -- state
  • polytechnics -- most municipal or private
Adult education
  • flexible way for adults to study
Steering of Educational Services
  • national development plans set guidelines every five years
  • legislation reformed in 1999. Decision-making to the providers level
  • registered education providers, e.g. vocational education -- local but national approval
  • national core curriculum and vocational qualifications at basic, gymnasium, and vocational levels
  • teacher education of high quality
  • national requirements of teachers
  • financing
  • evaluation a central role of the provider. High trust in providers (no inspectorate)
  • quality management at the provider's level
The Constitution
  • educational rights (Section 16):
  • the right to education free of charge
  • public authorities must provide the opportunity
  • freedom guaranteed
  • the Saame -- constitutional rights to cultural autonomy. The Saame Parliament has educational influence. Some schools in the Saame language
  • equal rights for national languages (Section 17), Finnish and Swedish
The Finnish National Board of Education
  • first developed in 1991
  • responsible for the administration of education at all levels
Evaluation by the Finnish National Board of Education
  • assesses learning outcomes at basic and upper secondary education
  • provides self-assessment
  • only uses samples (5,000-6,000 students), does not test the entire age cohort
  • reports at age/subject
  • results not published at the school level, only national
Role of the municipality
  • Constitution (Section 21) -- self government, municipal tax
  • 416 municipalities
  • public administration mainly local
  • expenditure accounts for 30% of total public sector and 2/3 public consumption
  • 50% on welfare and health, 25% on education
  • municipalities cooperate with each other, e.g. vocational schools and polytechnics (voluntary) and health care (obligatory)


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