“I think the Finnish people are so hospitable. That makes it easier for you to adapt to the Finnish way of life, because the Finns love to teach foreigners how things are done here.” – Ali Najafi, Bachelor’s in Service Business Management, Laurea University of Applied Sciences
The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a world-reputed survey that evaluates global education systems. The audit investigates the extent to which students near the end of their education have gained the knowledge and skill needed to flourish in a competitive world. Held every three years, the PISA survey examines study attitudes and skills that promote a love of learning.
In the PISA 2015, Finland tied for third alongside Canada in ranking the scientific literacy of 15-year-olds. Only Japan and Estonia ranked higher than Finland, and Finnish youths stand among the world’s top young readers.
In a study conducted by global platform StudyPortals, Finland earned an average satisfaction rating of 9.2 out of 10 from its international student population. Positive feedback was also received for services given to non-native students studying in the country. According to the OECD’s Education at a Glance 2017 report – a set of indicators that compares state education systems – international students in Finland are particularly passionate about the fields of law, engineering, construction, ICT, business and administration.
“After finishing my associate degree in Iran, I felt that I needed to do something more exciting and go to study abroad,” says 25-year-old business student, Ali Najafi, who’s been studying at Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Finland for almost three years.
“I talked to some of my friends and did some research on the internet and found some universities in Finland that caught my interest,” he adds. “I’ve always wanted to study in Scandinavia and I’ve been interested in the Finnish culture. Where I come from, the Finnish education system is famous and is ranked among the best in the world.”
But what is it that makes Finnish education so special?
A fundamental strength of education in Finland lies in its provision of equal study opportunities, regardless of social or financial background. Equal learning opportunities for all students are supported by extensive school healthcare services and social benefits. Each learner has the right to receive high-quality teaching, regardless of their initial abilities. But that’s not all; Finnish education is offered free of charge from pre-primary level to higher education and beyond.
Qualified teachers and quality instruction
Teachers play a central role when discussing the development and calibre of Finnish education. Student learning outcomes are heavily influenced by the teacher, and, by providing support to the teacher, the rector.
In Finland, teaching qualifications are regulated by government decree and teachers must be formally qualified to perform their duties. According to a 2016 study, only 2.8 percent of teachers in all teaching groups did not possess the required qualifications. In fact, teacher training in Finland is one of the most popular fields of study, on top of being one that’s incredibly respected.
“I study the Bachelor’s degree in Business Management because I think that best supports my plans for the future,” Ali explains. “I can choose business courses that I’m interested in and plan my own studies. The most interesting part has been my work placement at Laurea’s International Office, where I get to do different kinds of projects ranging from cooperation with our international partner universities, to helping new exchange students adapt to studying at Laurea.”
Here, learning is based more on discussion, student participation and collaborative projects, and not so much on authoritarian methods and traditional classroom teaching. Games and other virtual environments are also part of daily school activities, encouraging curiosity while ensuring students remain engaged.
“The thing I remember that caught my eye on Laurea’s website was the fact that so many Laurea graduates get employed after finishing their studies,” says Ali. “I also remember thinking that with such good locations around the capital area it is easy to reach.
“At Laurea, the thing I value the most is meeting many new people through project work and group work and learning new things every day.”
In Finland, basic education is not based on continuous assessment, grading or competition between students. Instead, teaching strives to find learning methods that best serve student needs, all while supporting learners who struggle along the way. Everyone is offered a chance to continue studying after completing basic education in comprehensive school.
And since Finland was recently named the happiest country in the world by the UN, you will fall in love with the Finnish world beyond education.
“Finland is honest and safe,” Ali points out. “You will never lose anything here; you can forget something on the bus, and when you come back it will still be exactly where you left it.
“Everybody thinks Finns are shy and don’t like to talk but that’s not what I’ve experienced. The Finnish people I’ve met like to go out together, they like meeting people, and they go out to their summer cottages with their friends.
“Before coming to Finland, I spent time living in Malaysia, Iran and Germany,” the student concludes. “When I came to Finland, everything was different. The differences start from the moment you arrive and the sky is so blue, there’s no pollution. The air is so clean. The people in Finland are also very nice and the food is different from anywhere else I’ve visited.”
If you want to experience Finland’s world class education system, your journey begins at Laurea.