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Schools in Finland have less favourable disciplinary climates in science lessons than in other OECD countries, according to students’ reports in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015, with an index of disciplinary climate of -0.1 (the average index value was 0.00). However, students in Finland were among those most likely to report that their science teachers adapt their instructions more frequently than the OECD average, with an index of adaptive instruction of -0.01 (the average index value was 0.01) (OECD, 2016[1]).

The PISA 2015 index of instructional educational leadership for Finland (measuring the frequency with which principals report doing leadership activities specifically related to instruction) was much lower than the OECD average (-0.23 compared to 0.01) (OECD, 2016[1]). The share of lower secondary teachers in 2016 aged 50 or over was 32.2%, which was close to the OECD average of 35.4%. In 2017, teachers in Finland had fewer net teaching hours for general programmes than their OECD peers. Teachers annually taught 673 hours at primary level and 589 hours at lower secondary level, compared to OECD averages of 784 and 696 hours, respectively (OECD, 2018[2]). According to school principals’ self-reports in PISA 2015, Finnish schools had higher levels of autonomy over curriculum than on average across the OECD: 82.1% of principals reported that the school has primary autonomy over curriculum, compared to 73.4% on average (OECD, 2016[1]).

In 2016, lower secondary teachers earned 99% of the average salary of a full-time, full-year worker with tertiary education, compared to an OECD average of 91%. According to the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018, 78.9% of teachers in Finland said that if they could choose again, they would still become a teacher; this was higher than the OECD average of 75.6%. Furthermore, 58.2% of teachers felt that the teaching profession was valued in society, compared to an OECD average of 25.8% in 2018 (OECD, 2019[3]).

In PISA 2015, school leaders in Finland were more likely than average to conduct self-evaluations of their schools (95.1% of students were in schools whose principal reported this, compared to an OECD average of 93.2%), but less likely than average to undergo external evaluations of their schools (principals of 56.6% of students reported this, compared to the OECD average of 74.6%) (OECD, 2016[1]). Teacher appraisal levels as reported in the earlier cycle of TALIS 2013, were lower than average: 51.3% of all teachers had reported then having received a teacher appraisal in the previous 12 months, compared to 66.1%, on average (OECD, 2014[4]). At 23%, the proportion of secondary school students in PISA 2015 whose principals reported that standardised tests are used to make decisions on students’ promotion or retention was below the OECD average of 31% (OECD, 2016[1]).

School autonomy levels over resource allocation (allocation and use of resources for teaching staff and principals) were slightly lower than the OECD average according to PISA 2015: 50.2% of principals reported that the school has primary responsibility for resource allocation, compared to the OECD average of 53.8% (OECD, 2016[1]). Annual expenditure per student at primary level in 2015 was USD 9 305, which was higher than the OECD average of USD 8 631. At secondary level, Finland spent USD 10 482 per student, compared to the OECD average of USD 10 010, while at tertiary level (including spending on research and development), Finland spent USD 17 591 per student, compared to the OECD average of USD 15 656. In 2015, expenditure on primary to tertiary education in Finland as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) was 5.7%, which was above the OECD average of 5%. The proportion coming from private sources (including household expenditure, expenditure from other private entities and international sources) was lower than the OECD average (1.6% compared to 16.1%). Between 2010 and 2015, the relative proportion of public expenditure on primary to tertiary education increased by 0.2 percentage points while on average across the OECD it decreased by 1.3 percentage points. During this same period, private expenditure decreased by 11.4 percentage points, compared to an OECD average increase of 10.6 percentage points (OECD, 2018[2]).

Evolution of key education policy priorities

Finland’s key education policy priorities have evolved in the following ways over the last decade (Table 8.9).

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Table 8.9. Evolution of key education policy priorities, Finland (2008-19)

Identified by

Selected OECD country-based work, 2008-191

Evolution of responses collected by the Education Policy Outlook, 2013-192

School improvement

The OECD identified challenges in maintaining a high-quality workforce in early childhood education and care (ECEC), given the ageing population among ECEC professionals that might be related to the unattractiveness of working in a sector where pay is often low and development opportunities are limited. It might also indicate that there is high staff turnover: young people work for a short period in the ECEC sector and quickly move on to work elsewhere. Thus, the OECD identified the need to develop skills among the workforce and leadership and improve staff qualifications. [2012]

Finland reported the prevailing priority of strengthening the capacity of school leaders and teachers to deliver quality education in all schools. More recently, these priorities have expanded to focus on strategic leadership and the management systems within educational institutions. [2013; 2016-17]

Evaluation and assessment

The OECD identified a lack of systematic training for monitoring within ECEC education, especially for staff with internal monitoring responsibilities. [2016]

Finland reported the ongoing priority of ensuring that all stakeholders in the education system can employ evaluation and assessment to improve student outcomes. [2013; 2016-17]


OECD evidence underlined that there is only limited co-operation between business and universities, although where it does exist, it is successful. [2016]

In Finland, the government reported ongoing work on capacity building to deliver high-quality education across all municipalities. More recently, the government reported key efforts in the area of education and science to enhance collaboration between higher education and the private sector. [2013; 2015-19]

One of the government’s key goals in the fields of education and science was to enhance co-operation.



In Finland, improving the efficiency of funding in tertiary education remains a policy priority, with government measures being taken. [2013; 2016-17]


1. See Annex A (OECD publications consulted).

2. See Reader’s Guide (years and methods of collection).


Education policies of potential interest to other countries

School improvement

  • The New Comprehensive School Programme is one of the Government of Finland’s (2015-19) main policy efforts to renew comprehensive education, learning environments and teachers’ competence. The programme focuses on three elements: new pedagogy, new learning environments and digital learning. It is particularly targeted at supporting schools and municipalities to implement creative solutions and initiatives that promote digital learning. The government also plans to support the launch of experiments related to new pedagogies and new learning environments. The programme has also provided guidelines for the support and implementation of the new core curricula for Finnish basic education. As part of this programme, a Comprehensive School Forum (2016), comprised of a broad group of experts and stakeholders, has drawn up a national vision for the future of Finnish education (2017) (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2016[203]).

  • The Finnish Teacher Education Forum (TEF) was established as part of the New Comprehensive School Programme. The TEF was charged with developing a more systematic approach to teacher education across a teacher’s career, from initial training to continuous professional development (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2016[203]). The Teacher Education Development Programme (TEDP, 2016) was prepared in broad co-operation with almost 100 representatives from different stakeholder groups (including teachers, municipalities and academia). Among its main aims and actions are: 1) adoption of a holistic view of teacher education, with pre-service and in-service education on a continuum; 2) improved selection of student teachers and required competencies; 3) support for the development of the skills required for the generation of new ideas and innovations; 4) improved collaborative culture and networks; 5) supportive leadership; and 6) research-based teacher education (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2016[204]). The Ministry of Education and Culture has awarded nearly EUR 28 million in grants for 45 projects to develop teacher education. The projects will initiate the implementation of the TEDP and will promote the attainment of the programme’s objectives. A total of 11 of Finland’s 13 universities, along with 5 universities of applied sciences and 129 other education providers are participating in the implementation of the Teacher Education Development Programme. This represents the involvement of 41% of all Finnish municipalities.

  • Finland also aims to allocate teacher tutors to each of the 2 500 comprehensive schools as part of the New Comprehensive School Programme. These tutor teachers support other teachers in developing best practices relating to digitalisation in their daily work. Almost 95% of municipalities and education providers have started their own tutor teacher activities during 2016-18. The activities are supported through an investment of EUR 24.8 million, which covers the same period (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2018[205]).


Selected education policy responses


  • Finland has introduced several measures to improve the governance of the evaluation of the education system. The Quality Criteria for Basic Education (2009) aimed to provide clear criteria, raise quality and facilitate evaluation. In 2014, the various evaluation activities within the education system were merged under the authority of the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINECC), which operates as a separate unit within the Finnish National Agency for Education. FINEEC unites the work of the Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council, the Finnish Education Evaluation Council and the Finnish National Board of Education. As part of the FINECC Act (2013), an Evaluation Council, working in connection with FINECC, was tasked with the ongoing development of four-year evaluation plans (FINECC, 2016[206]). The approved National Plan for Education Evaluation 2016-19, prepared by the Evaluation Council and approved by the Ministry of Education and Culture (OKM), was published in 2016.

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Progress or impact: The National Plan for Education Evaluation 2016-19 includes a variety of evaluation projects, as well as guidelines for the development of the evaluation system and methodologies. The scheduled projects cover 29 audits of quality systems in higher education institutions (HEIs), 10 assessments of learning outcomes in vocational education, and 5 assessments of learning outcomes in basic education. Also, evaluations were scheduled for initial teacher education for teachers of Swedish, maritime education (external), and the self-evaluation and quality management procedures for basic education and general upper secondary education providers.

For 2016, the plan aimed to put into action the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) and to take part in an external European Association for Quality Assurance (ENQA) in higher education review, to maintain full ENQA membership and listing in the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR). In addition, the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINECC) prepared for a full external review of its activities during the period covered by the plan (FINECC, 2016[206]). The external evaluation took place in 2016 and 2017 and on completion, FINECC’s full membership of ENQA and its EQAR listing were secured until 2022. Additionally, the agency was commended for its ongoing efforts to involve stakeholders as well as its commitment to conducting work in Finnish, Swedish and English, thus promoting internationalisation.

The report recommended that going forward, FINECC aim to extend the scope of stakeholder work to include actors beyond institutions, including other key co-ordinators at national level within both the administration and the world of work (Loukkola et al., 2017[207]).

A follow-up National Plan for Education Evaluation (2020-23) is currently in preparation.

  • Finland’s Universities Act (2009) grants further administrative and financial autonomy to Finnish universities. Performance agreements between universities and the Ministry of Education and Culture define operational and qualitative targets for the whole higher education sector, for each university and universities of applied sciences (Ammattikorkeakoulut, UAS). Degree targets in the agreements are also one of the bases for how universities make decisions regarding student enrolment. The UAS reform was implemented in 2014-15 with many similar aims, such as granting further administrative and financial autonomy to Finnish UAS. Since 2015, UAS institutions have been operating as independent legal entities, joining universities, which have been operating as independent legal entities since 2010, following the 2009 Act (National information reported to the OECD). Allocations of core funding for HEIs primarily depends on a performance-based funding model. This funding model also includes a strategic funding component (European Commission, 2015[208]).

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Progress or impact: The Education Committee within the Finnish Parliament reviewed the Universities Act in 2016. This review focused on the evolution of the university management structure, universities’ decision-making processes, and the relationship between the ministry and universities. According to the evaluation, the Universities Act has increased universities’ financial and administrative autonomy. However, despite increased funding autonomy, the OKM culture maintains a strong steering influence on universities’ activities (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2016[209]).

In 2018, the OKM published an impact evaluation of higher education (HE) reforms. According to the evaluation, the HE reforms have considerably changed the leadership and operating culture within HEIs. These reforms have afforded HEIs the authority to make decisions on finances while also showing evidence of strengthening their administration. However, there is evidence that some HE staff and communities feel less included in decision-making processes (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2018[210]). Despite external funding for HEIs, the majority of funds come from the government, which can still impose limitations on institutional-level autonomy. External sources primarily come from research funding organisations (such as The Academy of Finland or Business Finland), foundations, international sources like the European Union, and from business organisations. Since 2017, tuition-fee funding from students outside the EU/EEA-area has accounted for only a small proportion of HEI funding in Finland (National information reported to the OECD).


  • In 2016, Finland proposed a reform to the Student Support Act to raise student financial aid (grants and student loans) and harmonise the systems for tertiary and upper secondary financial aid. The reform aimed to support a speedier transition from upper secondary to higher education and to encourage completion rates, while also navigating planned budget cuts (Eurydice, 2019[211]). The reform offers a general housing allowance, instead of the housing supplement, to all students, a measure expected to benefit students with low income. The housing supplement continues for students attending fee-based studies and expands to include students studying abroad. The maximum amount of student loans would increase from EUR 400 to EUR 650 per month, and from EUR 700 to EUR 800 per month for those studying abroad. Students aged 18 and older, living independently while studying in Finland, would become eligible for as much as EUR 900 per month in total (a study grant of EUR 250, and a loan guarantee of EUR 650). Students studying abroad while enrolled in a Finnish university would be eligible for a maximum of EUR 1 260 per month (a study grant of EUR 250, a loan guarantee of EUR 800, and EUR 210 in housing supplement) in financial aid. In all cases, the ratio of loan availability to grant eligibility increases. Concurrently, the maximum duration of financial aid for all higher education studies is shortened from 64 to 54 months (57 months for bachelor’s and master’s degrees) and by 2 months per degree. Finally, the reform proposed limits to students’ annual income in relation to an index of wage and salary earnings. The Government of Finland adjusts the limit every two years if income limits are raised (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2016[212]). Students receiving financial aid can benefit from a 1% increase in their annual income. Also, students with incomplete studies can now request an extension of the maximum period for which financial aid is available. Universities will no longer have financial aid committees and will not review student applications for financial aid. Decision making for student financial aid will become the responsibility of the Social Insurance Institution (SII or Kela) of Finland.

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Progress or impact: Several reform measures came into force from 2017, with full operation from 2018. Following this, a further law amendment, adopted in 2018, granted a provider supplement of EUR 75 per month to guardians of a child under 18 years of age. This amendment extends to students who are also guardians themselves (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2016[213]).

Following the reforms to student financial aid, Finland’s expenditure on study grants for higher education decreased by approximately EUR 92 million between 2016 and 2018. Also, the average grant for higher education students is now EUR 222 per month, which is 21% lower than before the reform (National information reported to the OECD). The share of student loans within the student support budget is higher so that the average total amount for grants and loans is EUR 752 per month, which is 10% higher than before the reform. This illustrates that higher education students are now utilising loans more than previously.

Finally, the average general housing allowance is now EUR 311 per month, which is 60% higher than the housing supplement. However, fewer students are eligible for the allowance than were for the housing supplement prior to the reform (National information reported to the OECD).

Additional education policies of potential interest to other countries


  • The reform of general upper secondary education, planned in 2017, aims to increase the attractiveness of general upper secondary education, strengthen the quality of education and learning outcomes and facilitate the transition from secondary school studies to tertiary education. More individualised and flexible study pathways, student counselling, individual support, cross-curricular studies and co-operation with HEIs play a key role in achieving these goals. A proposal for the reform, developed by the government in consultation with a range of stakeholders, was accepted in Parliament in mid-2018, coming into force in 2019 (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2018[214]). The changes are planned to occur in schools from 2021 when new curricula are also introduced. One of the key changes is the introduction of credits to replace courses, which will facilitate a more flexible organisation of instruction, including greater scope for cross-curricular learning. The Upper Secondary Schools Act also includes provisions on supporting student learning through improved personal career guidance, support for special educational needs and student welfare support (Government of Finland, 2018[215]).

  • The National Framework for Qualifications and Other Competence Modules (FiNQF, 2017) aims to improve the effectiveness and transparency of the qualifications system. Based on the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), provisions for the FiNQF were laid down in an Act (93/2017) and Government Decree (120/2017). Through these, the qualifications, syllabi and competencies offered across all education levels and sectors in Finland were divided into eight reference levels based on their learning outcomes (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2017[216]; Ministry of Education and Culture, 2017[217]). The FiNQF was designed as an organic tool to be reviewed and updated, when necessary. Consultation to gather feedback from stakeholders on the new framework began in 2017. Following this, in 2018, the OKM established a working group for the preparation and co-ordination of the expansion of the FiNQF. This working group focused on analysing how the FiNQF could encompass other types of learning, including specialist and preparatory training for professions or careers and programmes that develop specific professional competencies and study skills (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2018[218]). In their final report, the working group proposed additional competence modules that the FiNQF could include. The draft Decree for expansion was appended to the final report, and changes to the Government Decree are being prepared (National information reported to the OECD).


  • Finland introduced a new funding model within the context of its recent reform of vocational upper secondary education (Ammatillisen koulutuksen reformi, 2018). The current funding system, which is based almost entirely on the number of student years (basic funding), will be gradually phased out, with the new model in full operation from 2022. This final model will allocate 50% of available funding according to student years, 35% to performance-based funding via the number of qualifications and units produced and 15% to effectiveness-based funding according to students’ access to further education and the labour market, as well as feedback given by students and employers (CEDEFOP, 2018[219]). In this way, the funding model is designed to incentivise providers to better support student transitions post-qualification, and encourage completion. The reform will continue to require vocational education and training (VET) providers to follow the national qualification requirements. However, a new licensing system for VET organisations will grant more autonomy to education providers for decisions concerning teaching and learning methods, learning environments and pedagogical solutions (CEDEFOP, 2018[219]). According to the European Commission, the reform will decrease the number of vocational qualifications from 351 to 164 (43 vocational qualifications, 65 further vocational qualifications and 56 specialist vocational qualifications). The European Commission expects that access to fewer qualifications may benefit VET learners looking to align their skill development with labour market needs (Eurydice, 2018[220]).

  • In 2019, Finland approved a new funding model for universities and a new model for universities of applied sciences, for 2021-24, as part of the Finnish Government’s vision for higher education and research for 2030. The proposals for these funding models were prepared through collaboration among the Ministry of Education and Culture, higher education institutions, staff, students and stakeholder groups (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2019[221]). The funding models for both HE sectors will also be performance-based in the future. For UAS, 95% of core funding will be allocated according to output-based indicators. For universities, the share will be 76% (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2019[222]). Furthermore, the share of degrees in the funding of UAS will increase from 40% to 56%, and in universities from 19% to 30% (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2019[223]).

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