Why Finland's schools outperform most others across the developed world | 7.30

ABC News (Australia)
31 Jan 202006:48


TLDRThe Finnish education system, renowned for its excellence, emphasizes equal opportunities and low classroom hours. Teachers, who must hold a Master's degree, are highly respected and have autonomy in curriculum delivery. Schools are funded equitably through taxation without private fees or fundraising, promoting a non-competitive environment. Despite less classroom time compared to countries like Australia, Finnish students thrive, suggesting a focus on quality over quantity in education.


  • 📚 Finnish primary school children study ancient history, like Egypt, in a school system renowned worldwide.
  • 🏫 Despite having world-class education, Finnish children spend significantly less time in classrooms compared to Australian children.
  • 🕒 In Finland, the minimum weekly school hours for a seven-year-old starting first grade is 20, increasing as they get older but still lower than many countries.
  • 🎓 Individual teachers in Finland have autonomy over curriculum delivery, including the use of technology in their classrooms.
  • 📝 Finnish students engage in unique projects, such as writing their names in hieroglyphics as part of learning.
  • 🏢 Finnish schools are not allowed to raise private funds or charge fees from parents, ensuring equitable funding for all.
  • 🍽️ School lunches, books, and excursions are provided free of charge in Finnish schools, promoting equal access to education.
  • 💡 Finland's education system does not publish or share exam results, focusing on self-evaluation rather than competition.
  • 🎓 All Finnish teachers are required to hold a Master's degree, reflecting the high standard and prestige of the teaching profession.
  • 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Parents in Finland trust the education system and do not interfere with the teachers' work, as they believe they know best for their children.
  • 🌐 While Finland's society is homogenous and may differ greatly from others, its education success can offer valuable lessons for countries like Australia.

Q & A

  • Where does the described educational scenario take place?

    -The educational scenario described in the transcript takes place in the suburbs of Helsinki, Finland.

  • What is the topic of the morning lesson for the primary school children?

    -The topic of the morning lesson for the primary school children is ancient history, specifically focusing on Egypt and ancient life.

  • How much time do Finnish primary school children spend in a classroom compared to Australian children?

    -Finnish primary school children spend half as much time in a classroom as Australian children.

  • How many hours per week do Finnish children start with in terms of classroom hours when they are seven years old?

    -When Finnish children are seven years old and starting the first grade, they have a minimum of 20 hours of classroom time per week.

  • Who decides how the curriculum is taught in Finland, including the use of technology in classrooms?

    -In Finland, individual teachers decide how the curriculum is taught, including how much technology should feature in their classrooms.

  • What type of project are the students working on as described in the transcript?

    -The students are working on a pyramid project where they write their names on paper with hieroglyphics and then complete some tasks from the classroom.

  • What is the role of Mintu Latimarki in the school's student-run cafe?

    -Mintu Latimarki's role in the student-run cafe is to serve food and drinks to customers, such as the cameraman and the reporter, and handle the transactions, including calculating the change.

  • What is provided for free to students in Finnish schools?

    -In Finnish schools, lunch, books, and excursions are provided for free to students.

  • How are schools funded in Finland?

    -Schools in Finland are equitably funded from taxation, and they are not allowed to raise private funds or charge fees from parents.

  • What is the policy regarding the publication of test results in Finnish schools?

    -In Finland, the results of regular exams are not published or shared, and schools are not compared based on these results.

  • What is the educational requirement for teachers in Finland?

    -In Finland, teachers are required to have a Master's degree to be eligible for a teaching position.

  • How is the selection process for teaching students in Finnish universities?

    -The selection process for teaching students in Finnish universities is highly competitive, with only about 10 percent of applicants being accepted into teaching studies.



📚 Finnish Education System: Lessons from the World's Best

The video script introduces the Finnish education system, highlighting its global reputation for excellence. It opens with a scene from a primary school in Helsinki, where children are learning about ancient history. The school's approach is collaborative, with students reading texts and discussing their findings. The script emphasizes the relatively low amount of classroom time compared to other countries, with Finnish students spending half as much time in class as their Australian counterparts. The system empowers individual teachers to decide on curriculum delivery and the use of technology. The video also showcases a student-run cafe within the school, reflecting the emphasis on practical skills and responsibility. Additionally, the script touches on the free provision of school lunches, books, and excursions, funded equitably through taxation without private funds or parental fees. The school's facilities are impressive, including an ice-skating rink and indoor entertainment options. The video concludes by questioning whether the school receives more funding, only to reveal that all schools in Finland receive the same funding, emphasizing equality in education.


🎓 High Standards and Respect for Teachers in Finland's Education

This paragraph delves into the high standards for teachers in Finland, where a career in teaching is highly competitive and respected. To become a teacher, one must have a Master's degree, and the university admission process is stringent, accepting only about 10% of applicants. The script highlights the societal respect for teachers, with parents trusting their expertise and not questioning their methods. The Finnish society values education and believes in the best for their children, leading to minimal anxiety about school selection. The script suggests that Finland's homogenous society may contribute to its educational success but believes that its approach to trusting and investing in teachers could offer valuable lessons for other countries, such as Australia. The segment ends with a call to build a system that instills trust in educators and a reminder to stay informed with 7.30's news stories.




Helsinki is the capital city of Finland and serves as the setting for the educational scenario described in the video. It is a significant location in the context of the video as it highlights the Finnish education system's approach to teaching and learning. The city's mention establishes the geographical and cultural backdrop against which the educational practices are implemented and appreciated.

💡Education System

The education system refers to the structured process of teaching and learning, encompassing curriculum, teaching methods, and policies that govern schools. In the video, the Finnish education system is portrayed as one of the best in the world, emphasizing equal opportunities, teacher quality, and student well-being. It serves as the central theme around which the narrative unfolds, showcasing the distinctive features that contribute to its global reputation.

💡Classroom Time

Classroom time refers to the amount of time students spend in formal educational settings. The video contrasts the classroom time of Finnish children with that of Australian children, highlighting that Finnish students spend significantly less time in classrooms but still achieve high educational standards. This concept is key to understanding the efficiency and effectiveness of the Finnish approach to education.

💡Student-Run Cafe

A student-run cafe is a business operated by students within the school premises, providing real-world learning experiences and entrepreneurial skills. In the video, the student-run cafe illustrates the Finnish education system's commitment to practical learning and student empowerment. It exemplifies how schools in Finland encourage students to take on responsibilities and develop skills beyond traditional academic subjects.

💡Equitable Funding

Equitable funding refers to the distribution of financial resources in a fair and unbiased manner, ensuring that all schools have equal opportunities to provide quality education. In the context of the video, equitable funding is a cornerstone of the Finnish education system, highlighting the absence of private funds and fees from parents. This concept underscores the system's commitment to equal access and quality for all students, regardless of their socio-economic background.

💡Teacher Qualifications

Teacher qualifications refer to the academic and professional credentials required for individuals to teach in schools. In the video, the high qualifications of Finnish teachers, including Master's degrees and multilingual abilities, are emphasized as a critical factor in the education system's success. This concept highlights the importance of a well-educated teaching workforce in delivering high-quality education and fostering student achievement.

💡Student Anxiety

Student anxiety refers to the stress and pressure that students may experience in relation to their academic performance and the choice of schools. In the Finnish context presented in the video, there is a notable absence of anxiety among students and parents when it comes to education. This concept is significant as it reflects the Finnish education system's focus on well-being and reducing the emphasis on competition and comparison, contributing to a more balanced and healthy learning environment.


The curriculum refers to the complete range of courses and subjects offered by a school, along with their accompanying learning objectives and methods of assessment. In the video, the Finnish curriculum is depicted as flexible, allowing individual teachers to decide how it is taught, including the integration of technology. This concept is essential in understanding the autonomy granted to educators in Finland and how it contributes to the personalized and innovative delivery of education.

💡School Facilities

School facilities refer to the physical infrastructure and resources available within a school, including classrooms, sports areas, and recreational spaces. The video highlights the impressive facilities in Finnish schools, such as an ice skating rink, ping-pong tables, and a room full of bean bags and couches. These facilities contribute to a rich and diverse learning environment, catering to various interests and needs of students, and reflect the Finnish education system's commitment to providing well-rounded experiences for students.

💡Educational Equality

Educational equality refers to the principle that all students should have equal access to quality education, regardless of their background or personal circumstances. In the video, this concept is central to the Finnish education system, which aims to provide equal opportunities for all students through a uniform financial system and a focus on shared resources. The emphasis on educational equality highlights the system's dedication to fairness and the belief that every student deserves a high-quality education.

💡Teacher Respect

Teacher respect refers to the admiration and value that society, parents, and students place on the teaching profession. In the context of the video, the respect for teachers in Finland is highlighted as a significant factor in the education system's success. This concept underscores the importance of a culture that supports and trusts educators, fostering a positive learning environment and high standards of teaching.


Finnish primary school children are learning about ancient history, specifically Egypt, in a school system renowned worldwide.

Finland's education system is among the best globally, providing high-quality education with less classroom time compared to many countries.

Finnish students start with a minimum of 20 hours of school per week in first grade, increasing as they get older, but still maintaining fewer hours than many international counterparts.

Individual teachers in Finland have the autonomy to decide how the curriculum is taught, including the use of technology in their classrooms.

Finnish students engage in creative projects, such as writing their names in hieroglyphics as part of their learning activities.

Finnish schools encourage practical skills, with students running their own cafe as part of the learning experience.

Finland provides free school lunches, textbooks, and educational excursions, ensuring equal access to resources for all students.

Finnish schools are well-equipped with facilities like ice-skating rinks, ping-pong tables, pool tables, and even a PlayStation for indoor recess.

Despite the high quality of education, Finnish schools receive the same funding and are not allowed to raise private funds or charge fees from parents.

Exam results in Finland are not published or shared, focusing on self-evaluation and personal improvement rather than competition.

The standard of teaching in Finland is very high, with all teachers required to hold a Master's degree and compete for limited university spots to study education.

A career in teaching is highly sought after in Finland, with rigorous selection processes and a high level of respect from society.

Parents in Finland trust the education system and teachers' expertise, resulting in minimal interference and anxiety regarding their children's education.

Finland's homogenous society and education success offer valuable lessons for other countries looking to improve their own education systems.

Finland's emphasis on trust in educators and equitable funding models could serve as a blueprint for educational reform in other nations.

The respect for teachers in Finland contributes to a positive learning environment where authority and expertise are valued.



LINTON BESSER, EUROPE CORRESPONDENT: It's 8:00am on a cold morning in the suburbs of


Helsinki and these primary school children are getting ready for class.


This morning's lesson - ancient history.


KAIJA-LEENA ALATALO, TEACHER: Well, they are reading with pairs some texts about Egypt


and ancient life.


They are reading and then I'm going to ask something what did they find out from the




I think we all are ready now.


LINTON BESSER: This is a school system that for years has been among the world's best.


KAIJA-LEENA ALATALO: And then what about this gold one?


(Student answering question)


LINTON BESSER: And yet these kids will spend half as much time in a classroom as Australian






you are seven years old, the amount of hours is 20 hours a week. It's the minimum and then


it gets more hours the older you get.


But it's still less than in many countries in Europe or in the world.


LINTON BESSER: In Finland, it's individual teachers who decide how the curriculum is


taught, including how much technology should feature in their classrooms.


MINTU LATIMARKI, STUDENT (translated): We're working on a pyramid project for example.


We're now writing our names on paper with hieroglyphics and then we'll be doing some


tasks from classroom.


LINTON BESSER: Eleven-year-old, Mintu Latimarki, asks to leave class to work at the school's


own student-run cafe.


KAIJA-LEENA ALATALO: You can go. Yeah, that's OKAY.


LINTON BESSER: Hello. One cake for the cameraman, one cake for me and two coffees.


How much is it?


MINTU LATIMARKI: Two euro and 60 cents.


LINTON BESSER: How much change?


MINTU LATIMARKI: Two euro and 40 cents.


LINTON BESSER: Is there a tip jar? Do you have tips?




LINTON BESSER: No tips? Okay.


In Finland, school lunches, like books and excursions, are free.


The kids select what they want, sit down with their friends and teachers to eat, before


they clean up after themselves.


The children rug up again to play outside. Some play a raucous version of soccer, some


play basketball while others wait for the hockey rink to open.


There are plenty of options for bad weather days too.


The facilities in this school are just amazing. Outside we saw an ice skating rink and in


here where the kids can play at lunchtime, there's a ping-pong table, a pool table and


in here, for the cold winter days, they've got a room full of bean bags and couches and


there's even a Play Station in the corner.


It seems like it's such a rich school, you must get more money than other schools?


VESA AYRAS, PRINCIPAL: No, we don't. It's the same money for everyone actually.


LINTON BESSER: In Finland, schools are not allowed to raise private funds or to charge


fees from parents.


All schools are equitably funded from taxation.


VESA AYRAS: And in our system everything is free for the students actually. We've don't


collect any money from the parents.


AIJA RINKINEN: We want our schools to be equal and have equal opportunities to arrange the




So therefore also the finance system needs to be equal and treat equally all the schools.


LINTON BESSER: Mintu Latimarki's older brother, Levi, is in Year 7 and this afternoon he's


got maths.


OONA ARNEZ, TEACHER: We have, like the last term, chapter before we have the next exam.


LINTON BESSER: There are regular exams in Finland but the results of these tests are


not published and shared.


VESA AYRAS: We have additional tests but the big difference is we don't compare schools


that this is not a good school, this is a bad school.


We just use the information that we evaluate ourselves.


LINTON BESSER: But perhaps the single biggest difference in Finnish education is the standard


of teaching.


Levi's maths teacher, Oona Arnez, speaks five languages and has post graduate qualifications.


OONA ARNEZ: So every one of us, we have to have a Master's degree to be teachers.


So like, for example, me, I'm maths and chemistry and physics teacher.


LINTON BESSER: In Finland, a career as a teacher is highly sought after.


OONA ARNEZ: To enter the studies in university actually it's really hard. They take something


like 10 per cent to study teaching.


If you really want to be a teacher, it can't be your second or third or I don't know what


kind of option. It has to be your first.


PAIVI LATOMAKI, MOTHER: I believe that they know what is the best for our children.


I'm not a teacher, I don't have that education. So we don't interfere with their work.


LINTON BESSER: In Finland, there's little anxiety about finding the right school for


your child.


PAIVI LATOMAKI: We trust that they have very good schools so we don't need to do any research




FATHER: I think that is not a question in Finland.




LINTON BESSER: Finland is a vastly different country with a tiny homogenous society.


But its education success must surely offer some lessons for Australia.


VESA AYRAS: I would like to say to try to build the system that you trust the people.


LINTON BESSER: And its investment in teachers seems an obvious place to begin.


OONA ARNEZ: The society respects the teachers and it means also the parents respect the


teachers and they've don't question the teachers and in Finland that's


a really huge thing.


Hi, I'm Leigh Sales. Thanks for watching this story.


If you'd like to watch more of 7.30's stories they are on the left of your screen.


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