Foreign-language basic education is given in a foreign language. All subjects are taught in the chosen foreign language with the exception of the pupil’s mother tongue and some other subjects that are classified as national subjects. The objectives and contents are the same as in Finnish-language education. The pupil must know both Finnish and the foreign language to the extent that he or she can achieve the subject-specific objectives in all subjects.
In foreign-language education the pupil's mother tongue and the instruction given in the foreign language form an integrated whole. The objective is to achieve a level in the foreign language close to that of the mother tongue, i.e. to be functionally bilingual when completing basic education. In foreign-language education the foreign language is not just a target for language teaching and learning, but also a tool in learning the contents of different subjects.
Foreign-language education is both for pupils with Finnish as their mother tongue and for pupils whose mother tongue is not Finnish. Foreign-language education is meant also for families coming from abroad, whose children speak that foreign language. Foreign-language education thus provides an opportunity to continue their studies in that language.
For pupils who are Finnish native speakers, foreign-language teaching provides an opportunity to reach the subject-specific and general objectives of education by using a foreign language as a tool for learning. Foreign-language teaching also offers Finnish-speaking pupils a natural multicultural environment for becoming more international.
The foreign language is taught as a subject from the first grade. Even later on, the pupils who participate in foreign-language education have more lessons in said foreign language compared to other schools. The advantages of learning a foreign language starting from an earlier stage and for a longer period of time is evident in the instruction given and it also shows in the pupils' assessment in grades 3-9.
The pupils learn to read and write in their own mother tongue during the first school years.
A basic rule in foreign-language education is that with the exception of the mother tongue (Finnish), the instruction is given in a foreign language (English, French or German). The extent of foreign-language instruction varies from subject to subject and grade to grade. The school curriculum specifies in detail which subjects are taught in the foreign language and to which need to be taught in the pupil's mother tongue.
Certain subjects and subject contents are considered national and are therefore taught in Finnish. Examples of such subjects include the mother tongue, Finnish geography and flora, Finnish history and social studies. In order to reach the goals of the subjects, it must be made sure that pupils understand and internalise the concepts in all subjects in their mother tongue too.
Pupils who have participated in foreign-language education and who have completed their basic education shall have, as a minimum, equally good prerequisites as other pupils when continuing their studies in upper secondary education. They also have good prerequisites for further studies in Finnish-language educational institutions. Due to this, the extent of instruction given in Finnish increases towards the ninth grade.
As a whole, the extent of foreign-language teaching increases during grades 1-6, and then diminishes during grades 7-9.
Enrolment in foreign-language education takes place in the same way as in Finnish-language basic education. Pupils are to be enrolled in January of the same year in which they start school. Information about the enrolment procedure is given in the media and additional information is also sent to the homes of the pupils at the beginning of the year.
Pupils enrolling in English-language education are interviewed in order to show that they have a sufficient command of the language. Pupils moving from abroad who are interested in foreign-language education are asked to apply to the school they wish to enrol in or to make an inquiry at the Department of Day Care and Education.
More information on English-language education: