8 reasons why the Finnish education system is the best in the world

(and what our own schools and colleges could learn from it...)

As specialists in training and personal development in the field of business management systems, we often find that when students first come to us they are held back by a number of issues affecting their approach to learning. Our trainers are adept at navigating around these problems and helping students to get the most out of our training courses, but it is evident that most of the problems date back to the student’s school days.


Scotland's education system

There has been much talk about the state of the Scottish education system and how well it is serving our young people. From our experience of working with people who have been through it, it is clear that the UK education system has been on the wrong track for many years. Too many students are left behind and leave school without qualifications because of the way they were taught and the conditions in which they were taught.

The good news is that the authorities in Scotland are catching on. Announcing a new council of education advisers to examine best educational practice from around the world, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education, John Swinney, had this to say:

“I have set out the actions we will take to substantially close the attainment gap and deliver a world-class education system in Scotland. This work will be informed and shaped by leaders in the profession and lessons learned elsewhere.”

Here at the Scottish Quality Management Centre (SQMC), we already model our teaching and facilitation methods on best practices from around the world, and in particular, on the Finnish education experience. Finland’s education system may be unorthodox, but it achieves remarkable results. Here are eight reasons why the Finnish education system is the best in the world.

1. Less formal schooling and more options

Students start school in Finland at the age of seven, which means they have more time to develop through play before formal schooling starts. And after year nine, they have the option of upper secondary school, which prepares them for University, or vocational learning, helping them to learn a trade, rather than forcing them to strive for academic achievements.

2. Shorter, more flexible school days

The Finnish school day starts between 9.00 and 9.45am, and ends between 2.00 and 2.45pm. This is based on research that shows that children need more sleep in the morning and allows teachers and students more time to rest.

3. Fewer teachers

Finnish schools operate with fewer teachers; in fact, some students in Finland can have the same teacher for six years. This makes it easier for teachers to build up an understanding of each child’s personality and their learning style and gives students the consistency, care and individual attention that can help them to thrive.

4. Higher standard of teaching

When it comes to teachers, Finland emphasises quality over quantity. Only 10% of applicants to the teaching profession are accepted and the selection process is rigorous, so only the best and the brightest are able to teach Finnish children.

5. Fewer classes and more breaks

The Finnish school day includes regular breaks of 15 to 20 minutes, allowing children to stretch their legs and mentally digest what they have been learning. This approach is based on research that shows physically active children, who are given regular opportunities to let off steam, are faster learners. These breaks also give teachers a chance to rest and prepare for their next class.

6. Less emphasis on testing

There are tests in the Finnish education system, but teachers in Finland are given much more freedom than in Scotland. The teacher is trusted to do their job and is not focused solely on training children to pass tests, allowing them to develop the full range of skills that can help to turn out well-rounded young adults, rather than regimented exam passers.

7. Fewer topics means more depth

In the Finnish education system, less is more. Instead of trying to cram as much information as possible into every student’s brain, Finnish schools focus on a smaller number of topics, taking pressure off students and teachers.

8. Less homework and more participation

Research shows that Finnish students have less homework than students in any other country and much of the homework is not graded. The Finnish approach is that learning is done in the classroom, not at home and putting less pressure on students appears to work, as Finnish students outperform Asian nations, where students are given a great deal of homework to complete.

Application within adult education

At SQMC we are freatly imprerssed with examples offered by Finland's education system, which is why we employ Finnish methods, along with research from Harvard University, to create our unique learning environment. Hopefully, a similar approach will be taken in Scotland as our education leaders follow the Finnish example, for the benefit of all Scottish students.