Basic education in Finland

Esi- ja perusopetus Suomessa
Here you can find information on basic, or comprehensive, education in Finland. In Finland basic education lasts nine years. Here you can also find information on how to apply for basic education.

Schooling is compulsory for children who live in Finland permanently. Compulsory schooling starts in the year when the child turns seven and ends when the pupil turns 18 kun or earlier if he/she has completed a matriculation examination or further vocational qualification, or an equivalent education in Åland or another country.

Children who are staying in the country temporarily can also attend school, but for them it is not compulsory.

You can find information on pre-primary education on the page Pre-primary education in Finland and on post-basic education studies on the page Upper secondary school and vocational education and training in Finland.

Schooling is compulsory for children who live in Finland permanently. Compulsory schooling starts in the year when the child turns seven and ends when the basic education syllabus has been completed or 10 years after the start of compulsory schooling. In the year preceding the start of compulsory schooling children must attend pre-primary education.

Pre-primary education

In the year preceding the start of compulsory schooling, children who live in Finland permanently must attend one year of pre-primary education or other activities that meet the objectives of pre-primary education. The objective of pre-primary education is to improve the child’s learning ability.

Pre-primary education can be in Finnish or Swedish, but Swedish-language pre-primary education is not available in all localities.

Pre-primary education is free of charge. If pre-primary education is over five kilometres away, the child is entitled to free transport.

Right to basic education

All children who live in Finland permanently are required to complete the basic education syllabus. Public comprehensive schools are free of charge. Basic education generally starts at the age of 7, but may be brought forward or delayed by a year depending on the child’s stage of development. Basic education lasts nine years.

The Finnish National Agency for Education draws up the curriculum criteria, based on which local curricula are established.

Municipalities are required to provide basic education for all children living there. The municipality of residence allocates a school place to pupils in a nearby school. You can also apply to a school other than your local school. In Finland the majority of comprehensive schools are public, but there are also private comprehensive schools.

Under the law, a child is entitled to free basic education even if they do not live permanently in the municipality or the municipality is not their municipality of residence. To obtain this right, it is sufficient that the stay in the Finnish municipality can be considered to be residential in nature. In practice, between the Nordic countries such a stay is more than three months but less than one year.

Read more about basic education on the website of the Finnish National Agency for Education and on

What language can you attend basic education in?

You can attend basic education in Finnish or Swedish. The language of instruction can also be Sámi, Romani or sign language. Read more about Swedish-language schools on the website

In the major cities there are international schools, where the education is wholly or partly in English or another foreign language. International schools are often private schools, where the education is fee-paying. Some public comprehensive schools also have English-language classes. Read more about international schools in Finland on the website ThisisFINLAND.

Can a child get extra tuition in Finnish, Swedish or their own mother tongue?

Children who have moved to Finland from abroad can get tuition in Finnish or Swedish (Finnish/Swedish as a second language) if necessary. Tuition can also be provided in the pupil’s own mother tongue if it is a language other than Finnish or Swedish. Ask the school or your municipality for more information. Read more about support for your mother tongue on the website of the Finnish National Agency for Education.

School meals and school transport

Pupils are entitled to a warm meal free of charge during the school day. Some schools also provide free snacks, but in most schools there is a charge for snacks. f a pupil has a special diet, the pupil's diet plan, a list of prohibited foods or a medical certificate must be submitted to the school. If the diet is linked to a medical condition, a statement from a doctor, nutritionist or nurse is necessary. Read more about school meals on the website of the Finnish National Agency for Education.

Pupils in primary education are entitled to free school transport if the distance to school is more than five kilometres. Alternatively, pupils can also be granted a subsidy for transport. Pupils attending basic education after the age of compulsory schooling are not entitled to free transport. Read more about free school transport in the Finnish National Agency for Education’s school transport guide.

How do you apply to a comprehensive school?

Municipalities send out a compulsory schooling notice at the start of the year when the child turns seven. The notice contains the child’s local school, which is determined by the child’s home address. Parents can also choose a different school for their child, but this will have to be applied for, and a place may not necessarily be available. You generally have to apply for weighted-curriculum education through admission and aptitude tests. Private comprehensive schools are applied for separately. You will find more information on the school’s website.

Parents enrol their children in school either electronically on their municipality’s website or using a paper form. You can find more information on enrolling your child on the website of your municipality of residence. You can find contact details for the municipalities in Finland on the website of the Association of Finnish Municipalities.

If your child changes schools in the middle of the school year, contact both your child's current school and the education authorities in your new municipality of residence. Read more about changing schools in the middle of the school year on the service.

If a child moves to Finland permanently, contact both the child’s current school and the education authorities in the new Finnish municipality of residence. If a child moves to Finland temporarily, they are entitled - but not required - to attend basic education. Contact your temporary municipality of residence.

Morning and afternoon activities

Morning and afternoon activities for schoolchildren are intended for pupils in years 1 and 2 and for pupils in other years who are in special education. Morning and afternoon activities provide safe activity for children before and after the school day, and a snack must be provided.

Municipalities are responsible for morning and afternoon activities. Municipalities can organise activities themselves or in cooperation with other municipalities, or they can outsource the services. Municipalities are not required to provide morning or afternoon activities.

A monthly fee may be charged for participating in morning and afternoon activities, the amount of which is decided by the municipality. The fee may be charged for the months during which the child participates in the activities but no other fees may be charged for participation.

Read more about morning and afternoon activities on the website of the Finnish National Agency for Education.

More information

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