I present to you this Chapter-I in a three part series titled “Lessons from the Finnish Schools.” In this first part, I will discuss the Finnish education system, its success story and the impact. Hope you have a good time reading these chapters.

Finland, the Land of the Midnight Sun, is a sovereign state in Northern Europe. It is embraced by a peninsula with the Gulf of Finland to the South and the Gulf of Bothnia to the West, Sweden to its Northwest, Norway to the North and Russia to the East. Finland is a Nordic country situated in the geographical region of Fennoscandia, which includes Scandinavia. This Land of a Thousand Lakes, as it is affectionately called, has a population of around 5.4 million (113th in world population ranking), with one of the most sparsely populated countries in the European Union, with only 16 persons per square-Km.

Brewing up to celebrate the centenary of its independence on this December 6, Finland is as socially sustainable and culturally fascinating as its picturesque landscapes. Finland can brag about its Growth Competitiveness Index Ranking, Environmental Sustainability Index, e-Governance Ranking, Democracy Index, Corruption Index, worldwide Press Freedom Ranking, and for being the best place to be a mother and so on. Rather the Finns tend to talk less. The said rankings and results indicate that Finland has been doing things right over the recent past. My understanding is that to do the things right; you need the correct knowledge and education, and implementation at the precise time. They have successfully done it, and this is the lesson that we should be learning from the Finnish Schools.

Notably, in its Innocenti Report Card 11, UNICEF published in April 2013 titled “Child well-being in rich countries: A comparative Overview”, ranked Finland at 4th for the overall well-being of their children amongst 29 developed countries. Finland was ranked 2nd in material well-being, 3rd in health and safety, 4th in education, 12th in behaviours & risks, 6th in housing and environment. It is quite impressive that Finland has managed to achieve these extraordinary feats since the inception of Comprehensive University Degree reform in 1972 (FYTT Committee, 1972) and exponentially since the early 1990s. Finland has been consistently showing good results and was ranked 5th in PISA ranking in 2015. Their unique education system has undoubtedly played a pivotal role in this success.

Naturally one may wonder, what makes the education system of Finland different? Do they focus harder on academic curriculum achievements? Do they follow strict discipline and classroom teaching methods? Do they have fierce competition and strong assessment program? I will discuss all these questions in Chapter-II of this lesson in detail. But for now, here’s a sneak-peak of Finnish education system that varies from the Western world:

Western Model Finnish Model


Strict standards for schools, teachers and students to guarantee the quality of outcomes.

Flexibility and diversity


School-based curriculum development, steering by information and support.

Emphasis on literacy and numeracy


Basic skills in reading, writing, mathematics and science as prime targets of education reform.

Emphasis on broad knowledge


Equal value to all aspects of individual growth and learning: personality, morality, creativity, knowledge and skills.

Consequential accountability


Evaluation by inspection.


Trust through professionalism


A culture of faith on teachers’ and headmasters’ professionalism in judging what is best for students and in reporting of progress.

This tells an incredible story how Finland has navigated its system and how it stands out marginally in the education sector compared to the other developed countries. I will not elaborate upon the evolution of the Finnish education system here; rather discuss its current nature and its overall impact.


EU’s Educational and Training Monitor, 2015 emphatically highlights the impact of the Finnish policies on its education sector. Dropout between basic and upper secondary education is around 5%, and another 5% drop out from upper secondary, mainly from the vocational schools. Tertiary educated adults in Finland perform at the highest level in literacy proficiency, which is 37% as compared to 18% OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average. All of these combined shows that not only students in Finland are learning better, but also they learn it to retain for a longer time. PISA results and UN reports tell the rest of the story. Even when the scores for reading, science and mathematics are dropping, Finland is way ahead of the US and the OECD levels.

Source: ncee.org

PISA 2015 Mean Scores by Country for Reading, Mathematics, and Science

The overall unemployment in Finland is at 9.1%, with 19.2% youth being unemployed. 86% of the secondary school students complete their education. 43% of the adults take tertiary education in Finland.

The data and results can keep pouring in, but I guess you’ve got the idea. The Finnish Education system has worked well, and it continues to pose pertinent questions on the conventional education system followed everywhere else. With that note, we will break for recess.

In the next chapter, I will discuss how the Finnish Education System works and how it caters to the needs of students.

Until then, Keep Learning.

  • The Mann’s Voice.


Disclaimer: This blog or any post thereof shall not be considered to be in any way associated with the official stand of Nitant Shiksha Foundation on any issue which is discussed in the above blog-post. The opinions in the above article are author’s own opinion and shall not be considered as an advice or suggestion by or on behalf of Nitant Shiksha Foundation.




The Mann`s Voice