Schematically Finnish education system can be presented as follows:
The first distinctive feature of the Finnish educational model – the developed system of preschool institutions: the vast majority of the Finnish school students passes previously through kindergartens and a day nursery. Problems of preschool education constantly are in focus of public discussion which main question: “How to make transition of the child of kindergarten in school painless?
After establishments of preschool education the child is admitted to the main school where he studies till 16 years. One more characteristic feature of the Finnish system of school training – lack of examinations. Even upon termination of the main school examinations are not taken. Other feature – refusal of internal differentiation in training. Profound studying of one objects to the detriment of others at this stage of training is not welcomed. Allocation of “elite” classes from the general stream is forbidden. It is also necessary to note that the sector of private school education in Finland is insignificant – practically all public schools. Representatives of the Ministry of Education of Finland claim that quality of training at all comprehensive schools “is leveled”, any essential distinctions in training are absent. The policy of alignment of quality of school training expresses the main priority of the Ministry of Education of Finland – ensuring equal availability of education. Alignment was reflected also in a geographical arrangement of schools. Schools are distributed evenly, according to population density. (The most problematic the sparsely populated and remote northern region of the country – Lapland in this regard is). Only recently parents acquired the right of the free choice of school for the child, however it is still accepted to send children to the school, nearest to the house. Upon termination of the main school the pupil has the first possibility of the choice of a further educational trajectory – a gymnasium or professional school. In Finland 441 gymnasiums (with the total number of the studying about 130 thousand people) and 334 professional schools (with the total number of the studying about 160 thousand people). Grammar-school boys and pupils of professional schools also are on full state providing: it pays food, textbooks, transportation to the house.
Training in high school continues three years. After its termination matrikulyatsionny examination – the first and last national test for school students is taken. Nevertheless, entering a higher education institution depends not so much on delivery of this examination how many from results of passing of entrance tests which each higher education institution will organize independently. About 30% of graduates of professional schools continue the education at professional institutes; at universities it is much less though there are no formal restrictions for their entering a university (as, for example, in the Netherlands). Most of graduates of gymnasiums continue training at universities. Secondary vocational education (MCKO 5B step) in Finland is absent that significantly facilitates it transition to the Bologna model of standardization of the statuses of higher educational institutions. Division between “old” and “new” (transformed from colleges) higher education institutions here never existed – the sector of the higher education of Finland “is initially leveled”. In it is absent as well a little significant differentiation on the public and non-state sector owing to extreme insignificance of the last. Even the few private higher education institutions receive the state subsidies here and are completely under control to the Ministry of Education. Share of the state in financing of institutes of the highest education in Finland makes 72%. At the same time there is an essential distinction between universities and institutes (so-called “polytechnicians”). 10 versatile, 3 technical, 3 economic and 4 art higher education institutions are distinguished from universities. Besides, out of the sphere of management of the Ministry of Education the Higher school of defense possessing the university status functions. Range of the educational services provided by polytechnicians (which in Finland 29), a little already; besides, in them basic scientific researches are not conducted and there are no magistracies. However now many experts incline to opinion that polytechnicians will shortly acquire the right of assignment of master degrees. Permission to polytechnicians of a message postdegree training became the first step to it and to appropriate degrees of “sui generis” (2002). Relative simultaneity of emergence of universities affects uniformity of sector of the higher education. An exception is the first Finnish higher educational institution here – the Royal academy in Turku founded in 1640 when Finland still was part of the Swedish kingdom. In 1828 by Alexander I Akademiya’s decree it was transferred to Helsinki. At the beginning of the 20th century two more higher education institutions – Technological university and School of economy and management appeared. The majority of the universities operating today were based during the post-war period. Higher education institutions, as well as schools, are placed in proportion to population. Each of the towns of Finland with the population of 50-100 thousand people has rather large higher education institution. So, in Joensuu with the population of 43 thousand people (in all region – 177 thousand people) at university 6 thousand students study. At university of Oulu with the population of 90 thousand people – 10 thousand students.
Recently growth of number of foreign students was outlined in the Finnish universities and polytechnicians. Most of all in the Finnish higher education they are attracted by lack of a tuition fee – as well as the citizens of Finland, foreigners knowing Finnish are trained at universities and polytechnicians is free (growth of number of foreign students is promoted also in no small measure by distribution of educational programs in English which began to take root intensively within the last five years). The Finnish students receive an allowance from the state: grant and surcharge for housing. Besides, they have an opportunity to take soft loans in banks, and within three years after the end of study percent on them are paid by the state. If on average in the countries of Europe the share of persons with the higher education among the population of 15 years is also more senior makes 16%, then in Finland it reaches 24%. It is curious that education value is not the cultural imperative transferred from generation to generation at all. Among the Finnish pensioners at the age of 55-64 years only 37% whereas in age group 25-34 years the corresponding indicator makes already 83% have the certificate on the termination of high school. According to the last researches (2002) about 90% of respondents at the age of 15-29 years are convinced that the higher education increases chances of successful employment. Obviously, the general increase of education level is caused by two factors of post-war development of Finland. First, the economic growth of the 1950-60th made education demanded and socially prestigious. Therefore increase of educational level happened in steps, one “the educational boom” was replaced by another. Secondly, growth of education – result of long-term policy, the plaid ruling Social Democratic Party. More than 10 years the line “development of education” keeps the positions in a rating of national priorities. Annually 5 466 million euros or 15,5% of account part of the budget are allocated for financing of an education system by the government of Finland. At the same time the full public expenditures on the higher education in Finland make 21,7% of all expenses for education. In terms of one student of higher education institution these expenses make about 8 thousand euros a year. Finland is among the countries, the most consecutive in carrying out the Bologna reforms. The beginning of transformations became to some extent reaction to “ideological crisis” of the higher education of the 1990th years. Directive management style universities, characteristic of the Finnish education system, sputtered out, there was obvious a need of increase of an institutional autonomy of higher education institutions. In 1999 the Five-year plan of the Finnish government in the field of education was started. Its main objective – introduction of elements of the Bologna model in the Finnish education system and every possible participation of Finland in creation of uniform European educational space. In the fall of 2000. The Ministry of Education created the working group on development of marketing strategy for the higher education. Then work on “promotion of an image of the country as attractive place of training” began. In Finland the new legislation corresponding to the Bologna agreement came into force in August, 2005 though in practice its all principles were already introduced earlier.
Quality of training
Those factors by which progress of the Finnish school training is explained can be divided into sociocultural (contextual) and institutional (structural) conditionally. The explanations appealing to national traditions and social operating conditions of the Finnish education system belong to sociocultural.
Other sociocultural factor of success of school training – the positive relation of the public.
In parallel with the positive relation of the public (first of all parents) can be allocated one more factor of success of school training – satisfaction of pupils and the high status of the teacher in the Finnish society. Among graduates of schools popularity of this profession is even higher, than on average over the country (and popularity is not connected with prospects of earnings – teachers in Finland earn about 17 thousand euros a year without taxes). Representatives of the Ministry of Education of Finland declare that popularity of a profession of the school teacher allows to attract in schools of talented young specialists and to pursue policy of rejuvenation of pedagogical shots.
A special role in progress of school training is played also by system of support of school students. On number of the psychologists and social workers working with pupils the Finnish schools occupy one of the leading places among the European countries. Besides, the teacher/pupil for comprehensive school makes a ratio 1:15, for gymnasiums here – 1:18. The priority is given to training in small groups.
However from all institutional factors influencing quality of school training, the system of training of teachers has special value. Reform of preparation of pedagogical shots began in Finland in 1978. Its purpose – increase of professional level of teachers and standardization of standards of their training. According to the order of the Minister of Education of Finland, only owners of master degree are allowed to teaching at schools. Receiving this degree assumes obligatory delivery of the following courses: communicative competence (12 credits), technologies of education (75 credits), pedagogics and psychology (35 credits), main subject specialization (35 credits), additional subject specialization (35 credits), elective courses (5-8 credits).
If close interaction between schools and pedagogical higher education institutions existed always, then as a result of last reform this process joined classical research universities. The Kuopio university began to work as one of the first in the 1990th with local schools, organizing joint actions which could help with involvement of future students and their families.
Thus, on the example of Finland we can see how improvement of quality of preparation of pedagogical shots within one of segments of university sector (development of pedagogical magistracies) influences in the long term institutional transformation of all sector in general and improvement of quality of the higher education due to improvement of school training. Besides, in Finland where more than 10 years the doctrine of continuous education is realized, close cooperation of schools and universities has under itself the strong standard reasons.
Development of universities
In 2004 changes were made to the Finnish Act of universities. On an equal basis with teaching and research activity – the traditional and prevailing functions of universities – in it legislatively fixed a so-called third role of higher education institutions: their “social mission”. It should be noted that “the third role” is not new to the Finnish universities at all. The first serious results in this sphere were received in connection with progress of the institutes of the higher education which took active part in regional development. Therefore today’s discussion about “the third role” originates in debate of the 1960th when in Finland, as well as in the majority of the countries of Europe, the policy of creation of new higher education institutions was the instrument of “redrawing” of a map of the country and “alignment” of social space.
Strengthening of “the third role” conducts to the fact that not only the university becomes the participant of regional development, but representatives of local community, local business, local ethnic communities and local authorities are a part of university management.
At the same time the number of the tasks solved by higher education institution extends. The bigger attention paid by universities to employment of the graduates became an example of realization of “the third role”. Now all Finnish universities opened special employment services and develop a contact network with human resources departments of the leading Finnish corporations and public institutions.
Thus distinctive features of the Finnish education system are:
1. Strong internal communication of segments of education. Kindergartens are integrated into schools, schools – closely connected with higher education institutions, higher education institutions – are focused on work with schools and take feasible part in improvement of quality of school training. From here a primacy of continuous education and the requirement of ensuring “painless transitions” from one educational step to another (for example, at least examinations).
2. Priority of equality of educational opportunities and the weak internal differentiation connected with it. The education system serves as the instrument of social alignment here: territorial (an arrangement of schools and higher education institutions), substantial (a ban on differentiation of classes at high school), cultural (policy “education – a melting copper of cultures”, carried out concerning ethnic groups of the Finnish North), institutional (“smoothness” of distinctions between institutes of the higher education, elimination of distinctions between schools), economic (lack of a tuition fee).
3. The increase of “social responsibility” of higher education institutions brought to the level of a priority of national educational policy, and, as a result, close interaction of institutes of education with the local community presented by various social groups. It sets a favorable context of functioning of an education system (the high status of the teacher, support of the public, system of the boards of trustees), but at the same time creates a situation of plurality of instances of control.
4. A direct consequence of expansion of number of supervisory authorities and traditional directive management style is the remaining weak institutional autonomy of the Finnish educational institutions.
5. High mobilization potential of an education system. This characteristic connected with low degree of an autonomy of the Finnish higher education institutions and their small number allowed quickly, by means of directives (“from top to down”), to carry out reforming of educational system and, in particular, to realize the program of internationalization of the higher education.