When thinking about their future place of study, Finland might not be the obvious choice for many. Finland is that smallish Northern European country, where winter lasts half a year, snow banks tower over your head, people look grim and speak an unfathomable language, and polar bears walk on the streets, right?
Well, partly right… Winter does sometimes seem to go on forever and it can indeed get snowy, but if the winter is long and dark, then the summer really tries hard to compensate for it with the little phenomenon we call the midnight sun. And yes, the language is, to put it nicely, interesting, but fortunately most Finns speak very good English, so conversing with the natives is easy.
Moreover, we are still looking forward to that first polar bear sighting.
Free high quality education for all
In addition to all the above, what makes Finland especially interesting as a study destination is the fact that education is free. That’s right, Finnish universities and polytechnics do not charge tuition fees, not even from international students. Naturally, you need to be able to cover your living costs which, let’s be honest, are not the cheapest in the world, but skipping those tuition fees will definitely help in balancing your budget.
Neither is studying in Finland only about getting a degree on a bargain. The Finnish education system has been a hot topic for quite some time and the basic education has been lauded as the best in the world. Finnish school children rank year after year among the best in the PISA studies in literacy, mathematics and science. Furthermore, the differences in quality of education and learning results between schools – whether it be primary, secondary or higher level institutions – are virtually non-existent.
All of this stems from the belief that all citizens should have equal opportunity when it comes to education. This is the basis for the whole Finnish welfare society. The tuition-free higher level studies extend this principle to apply to everybody, no matter where you come from.
Finland has a dual higher education system, with two sectors that complement each other. The country’s 16 universities and 26 polytechnics (or universities of applied sciences) are located all over the country, from Helsinki all the way up to Rovaniemi, which lies on the Arctic Circle. All universities engage in both education and research and have the right to award doctorates. The polytechnics are multi-field institutions of professional higher education, which engage in applied research and development. Altogether, the institutions provide more than 400 English language degree and non-degree programmes.
“The Finnish advantage”
The strength of the Finnish school system is that it guarantees equal learning opportunities, regardless of social background. Instead of comparison between pupils, the focus is on supporting and guiding pupils with special needs. At elementary school level, there is no standardized testing.
Moreover, at all school levels, teachers are highly qualified and committed. A Master’s degree is a requirement, and teachers’ education includes teaching practices. Teachers are highly appreciated in Finland, and the teaching profession is very popular, hence the universities can select the most motivated and talented applicants. Teachers work independently and enjoy full autonomy in the classroom. The national core curriculum includes guidelines for teaching methods, but the teachers themselves can choose the teaching methods they use in order to achieve the objectives stated in the curriculum.
Since the guiding principle of the Finnish education system is equal opportunity for all, there are no elite schools in Finland. The differences between schools are basically non-existent, because the system has been designed to provide equal opportunities by ensuring that all pupils regardless of their gender, social class or geographical location can benefit from excellent teaching. This applies throughout the education system, from primary to higher education.
So take advantage of the Finnish advantage and see you in Finland!