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Finnish school world

Compulsory education is obligatory for all 7-17-year-olds in Finland. This means, in practice, that all children are obliged to complete comprehensive school. All pupils in Finland are equal and entitled to a safe learning environment.

The Finnish comprehensive school is free of charge. In addition to school instruction, other services, as well, such as health care - health check-ups, consultations with the school nurse and the services of a school doctor - are free of charge. School meals are also free. A school lunch is served daily. There is always a vegetarian alternative.

The objective is to treat the pupils as individuals. It is important to create cooperation between the pupil’s home and the school. Meetings between the teachers and parents or guardians are arranged at the school to discuss joint matters concerning the class and school community. They are also occasions for private consultations with the teacher. When the parents or guardians wish, they can also come to the school to meet the teacher.

The teacher informs the parents and guardians about current issues concerning the pupil and the class by writing in the "reissuvihko" (travelling notebook) that the pupil carries with him or her. The notebook is returned to the class teacher signed by a parent or guardian to make sure the information has been received at home. Parents can also write messages for the teacher in reissuvihko or in virtual Helmi-reissuvihko via the Internet.

Lenght of the lesson may vary. Between lessons there are breaks that are usually spent in the schoolyard. As a rule, pupils have homework to do, but not always. Some parents or guardians of immigrant origin say there is less homework in Finland than in their country of origin.

Learning is based on trust between the teacher and the pupil. The pupil bears the responsibility for learning. Homework is therefore not always controlled by the teacher.

In comprehensive schools the majority of the subjects, such as the mother tongue and literature as well as mathematics, are compulsory, and they are taught in joint groups. In grades 7-9 there are also optional subjects to be chosen individually by the pupils and their parents or guardians. The head teachers and teachers send information to the pupils’ homes about the optional subjects available in their school. Younger pupils are assessed in writing, whereas older pupils receive a school report with grades assessed in numbers. The grading scale is between 4 (fail) and 10 (excellent). School reports with grades are given at least once a year.

Additionally, the teacher meets the parents or guardians once a year to discuss and evaluate the pupil’s situation, strengths and weaknesses. In Finnish schools the teacher has got a guiding role. The teacher’s task is to motivate and guide the pupil to learn. Every pupil learns best in his or her own way. It largely depends on the pupil how well he or she can learn. It is the task of the parents or guardians to support their child at school and to cooperate with the teacher.