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Day 3 of the Quebec - Finland Expedition: A brief overview of the Finnish school system

Have you ever wondered about the similarities and differences that may exist between the Finnish and Quebec school systems? Find the answers to your questions in this little overview of the Finnish school system!

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ATTENTION! The English translation is automated - Errors (sometimes hilarious!) can creep in! ;)

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Our collaborator Marc-André Girard is on an educational expedition to Finland and document it here!

Let's start with an interesting fact: the children of Finland start school a year after those of Quebec.

Indeed, what they call “päiväkoti” corresponds to preschool 4 years old for us, even if the little Finns are 5.

Our pupils enter kindergarten at age 5, while their Finnish companions at age 6 in the equivalent program: "esikoulu". Consequently, the former count on 23.5 hours of educational services per week, while the latter, on the other hand, count on 19 hours for the same period. From what I could understand, there is no rush: they will have their whole life to work. This would be why, in a caricatured way, school starts a year later than our children. In addition, in Quebec, unlike in Finland, kindergarten is not compulsory. 

Our students therefore begin their school career at 6 years old, compared to 7 for the Finns. The former rely on 25 hours of educational services per week and the latter slowly increase the load as they progress in their primary course: 

  • 1st and 2nd years: 20 hours;
  • 3rd year: 22 hours;
  • 4th year: 24 hours;
  • 5th and 6th years: 26 hours.

The rest of their secondary school career is divided into two stages. The first portion is what we might call “Lower secondary” for grades 7, 8 and 9. The students take classes there for the equivalent of 30 hours per week, while their fellow Quebecers take at least 25 hours of classes per week. 

The second portion includes the 10th, 11th and 12th years. The student then chooses one of the following two routes: 

He can continue to finish his secondary studies (“upper secondary”). This path will lead him directly to university and he has a very low dropout rate: 3 % (2019). 

He can also choose a vocational course in technical schools. These allow young people to explore trades that do not require university training, in one of the eight areas offered, including those stemming from technology, manual work and education. It is often said that there is no dead end in Finnish education. Indeed, this path can also lead to certain university programs. However, it presents a school dropout rate from 9.4 % (2019). 

School attendance is newly compulsory up to the age of 18, compared to 17 years earlier or 16 in Quebec. In addition, especially in the “upper” course, some students choose to do their three years in four years to finish their course at 19 in a less intensive way. 

Finally, for the more curious, the Finnish school year lasts 190 days and it runs from mid-August to the beginning of June. These are 10 days more than in Quebec. 

To track the shipment:

Facebook page : http://t.ly/kkgE
Twitter: https://twitter.com/magirard
Youtube : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxHRXb4TqoPP_lyO0GNEh7g
TikTok: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZM8pPbFAk/

You can also contribute to the financing of the Expedition (until December 22): https://gofund.me/4cafa552

(Editor's note: The École branchée is happy to be a media partner of this expedition! Note that we are not, however, associated with the fundraising campaign.)

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About the Author

Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard holds a bachelor's degree in social studies education (1999), a master's degree in history education (2003), a master's degree in education management (2013) and a doctorate in education (2022). He specializes in school-based change management and educational leadership. He is also interested in the 21st century competencies to be developed in education. He is a principal in a public high school and gives conferences on educational leadership, pedagogical approaches, change in schools and the professionalization of teaching. He has participated in educational expeditions in France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Morocco. In September 2014, he published the book "Le changement en milieu scolaire québécois" with Éditions Reynald Goulet and, in 2019, he published a trilogy on the 21st century school with the same publisher. He is a frequent contributor to L'École branchée on educational issues. He is very involved in everything that surrounds the professional development of teachers and principals as well as the integration of ICT in education. In March 2016, he received a CHAPO award from AQUOPS for his overall involvement. He is a recipient of the Régent-Fortin 2022 scholarship awarded by ADERAE for the significant contribution of his doctoral studies to the development of practice and knowledge in educational administration.

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