Education matters to the Finns and has mattered for a long time. The way they fund their education system is a manifestation of their unwavering commitment to high quality education for all.
There are no gender-based schools and only a handful of private schools (organised on religious grounds or alternative pedagogies). Private schools receive government funding but are required to be not for profit. The vast majority of Finnish students are educated in public schools. Finnish educators believe that the nearest school is the best school.
There is a consistent quality of education and the differences between schools are insignificant. Consequently, there is no “school shopping” in basic education schools (to age 15) although the competition is increasing among high schools. For those of you who work in the independent sector imagine how much time, energy and money would be saved without the open days that are necessary to attract students to your school.
“The poorest child in Finland can attend one of the best schools in the world.”
Barack Obama, 29.09.18.
Education is free and there are no tuition fees for Finns and other citizens of the European Union. University students are eligible to receive a grant of $A750 per month to assist with the costs of tertiary education.
All school-aged children are fed. They are provided with a free school lunch every day. We did eat one of these meals on a school visit but neither Catherine or I could get past mustamakkara – the traditional Finnish blood sausage that is like Scottish black pudding. Mustamakkara is eaten with lingonberry jam and we were advised that if we smothered the sausage with the jam, we might be distracted from what we were eating. I managed half a mouthful and Catherine not much more!
Interesting though, we saw very few obese children. Perhaps they are less likely to ‘snack’ when they have had a proper meal during the day. The voracious appetite evident in most teenagers on returning home from school is satisfied, according to some students Catherine spoke to, with bread, berries, yoghurt and other healthy options.