The national education administration in Finland is organised at two levels. Education policy is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The Finnish National Agency for Education is responsible for the implementation of the policy aims.
Educational autonomy is high at all levels. Local administration is the responsibility of local authorities, most commonly municipalities or joint municipal authorities. These make the decisions on distribution of funding, local curricula and recruitment of personnel. The municipalities have also the autonomy to delegate the decision-making power to the schools.
The task of the local authorities is to offer all children living in their area – including those with mental or physical impairments – an opportunity to learn according to their abilities. In Finland education is free at all levels from pre-primary to higher education.
Education providers at local level are responsible for practical teaching arrangements as well as the effectiveness and quality of its education. Almost all ECEC-centres, schools providing basic education and general upped secondary schools are maintained by local authorities.
In addition to organising instruction, each local authority is generally responsible for social welfare services for pupils and students. Welfare services also include:
• free school meals
• free school health care
• free dental care
• free services of student welfare officers and school psychologists.
A local authority must, in certain circumstances, organise such services as transportation for pupils who need it.
In school level, all schools have right to provide educational services according to their own administrative arrangements and visions, as long as the basic functions, determined by law, are carried out. In many cases for example budget management, acquisitions and recruitment are the responsibility of the schools.
There are no regulations governing class size and the education providers and schools are free to determine how to group pupils and students. Also, it is typical that the principals recruit the staff of their schools.
The teachers have pedagogical autonomy. They can decide themselves the methods of teaching as well as textbooks and materials.
The Ministry of Education and culture grants the education providers’ permits to provide general upper secondary education and vocational education and training. There is no statutory obligation for local authorities to organise general upper secondary education and vocational education and training, but they are obligated to assist in financing them. General upper secondary schools are mostly municipal institutions.
Vocational institutions are maintained by the local authorities, joint municipal authorities (federations of municipalities), the State and private organisations. The local authorities and the joint municipal authorities also maintain the majority of vocational institutions. Majority of (73%) vocational education and training students study in the institutions run by the municipalities or joint municipalities.
With the exception of basic education, a local authority may also acquire the educational services required to fulfil its duties by purchasing them from other local authorities, joint municipal authorities or private education providers.
Vocational institutions mostly owned by local authorities, joint municipal authorities or private foundations. Adult education institutions are mostly owned by local authorities and private organisations. The State generally only maintains general and vocational institutions providing special needs education. Universities of applied sciences are public limited companies and universities are independent legal entities.
Early childhood education and care
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) comprises education, care and teaching to support children's balanced growth, development and learning.
Every family has a subjective right to place their children under school age in early childhood education. It can take place at kindergartens or smaller family day-care groups. Private service providers, parishes and NGOs offer alternative opportunities for child care. The fees are moderate and are based on parental income.
6-year-olds participate in free and mandatory pre-primary education. The Ministry of Education and Culture is responsible for its legislation, financing and other forms of steering.
Each local authority may decide whether to provide pre-primary education in schools, in a ECEC-centre or in family day care referred to in the Act on Early Childhood Education and Care (540/2018) or at some other appropriate venue.
By virtue of the Local Government Act, the local authorities may decide the administration responsible for pre-primary education and the committee to deal with matters concerning pre-primary education.
Pre-primary education provided in conjunction with early childhood education and care is usually organised at ECEC-centres. These are institutions responsible for providing education and care for children aged from 0 to 6 years. Pre-primary education provided for in the Basic Education Act is not day care, although it may be provided by a day-care facility referred to in the Act on Children’s Day Care in compliance with legislation.
Pre-primary education provided in connection with basic education is organised either in a separate pre-primary group or by teaching pre-primary pupils together with those in the first forms of basic education.
Primary and lower secondary education
The Basic Education Act does not contain any rules or regulations how the administration and management of schools should be organised; instead, the administration of basic education schools is primarily under the regulations of the Local Government Act concerning municipal administration. Consequently, the administration in schools can be decided by the local authorities. Nevertheless, each school is required to have a principal who is responsible for its operations.
Regulations for administration of education organised by the State or a private organisation have been regulated in a separate act. This defines organisation, development and administration of education is under the responsibility of school board. Each institution must also have a principal. The organisation of education is stipulated in the institutional regulations, which are adopted by the school board.
General upper secondary education
Legislation governing general upper secondary education does not regulate on administration; instead, the administration on upper secondary education is under the legislation in the Local Government Act.
Consequently, the administration can be determined by the administrative regulations and standing orders of the local authority in question, similar to basic education. Nevertheless, institutions providing general upper secondary education must also always have a principal responsible for their operation.
In addition, each institution providing general upper secondary education must have a student body composed of students, with the task of promoting student co-operation and schoolwork.
Administration in general upper secondary education provided by the State and private organisations is governed by separate administrative legislation, which requires that an upper secondary school should have a school board, a principal and institutional regulations adopted by the school board.
Vocational upper secondary education
The administration of vocational institutions is arranged according to the same principles as that of general upper secondary schools. Consequently, the administration of vocational institutions owned by local authorities and joint municipal authorities is subject to the provisions of the Local Government Act and municipal administrative regulations and standing orders.
The institutional administration of education provided by the State and private organisations is regulated by the Act on the Administration of State and Private Education.
This act defines that the responsibility for organisation, development and administration of education rests with an institutional board, which consists of at least three members. Each vocational institution must always have a principal responsible for its operation. The general criteria for the organisation of education, administration, authority and duties of bodies and staff and other necessary matters are determined in the institutional regulations. In addition, institutions providing vocational education and training always have a student body.
Apprenticeship training is one form of arranging vocational education and training, which has become popular in recent years. The provider of apprenticeship training (a local authority, joint municipal authority, registered association or foundation) is also responsible for managing apprenticeship training and supervising the apprenticeship contracts. Apprenticeship training is available to both adults and young people.
Higher education, universities of applied sciences and universities
The Ministry of Education and Culture and the higher education institutions agree on the state funding during the performance negotiations. The agreement defines the higher education institutions’ duties, profile, focus areas, development activities and public funding, except the formula based core funding. The common objectives for the higher education system as a whole are set by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the higher education institutions in collaboration. The targets for each higher education institutions are linked to the common objectives and support the management of the higher education institutions.
Universities as universities of applied sciences (UAS) are autonomous in their internal affairs.
The internal administration of a UAS is governed by its board and president or principal. The board consists of the principal and representatives of the UAS management, full-time teachers, full-time staff, students as well as business and working life.
The administration of the maintaining bodies (municipalities, joint municipalities, registered Finnish companies or foundations) decides on the central operational and economic issues as well as the strategies.
Universities are very independent in their internal affairs because they enjoy autonomy and freedom of education and research. Universities determine their own decision-making systems independently according to the Universities Act. Universities are governed by a board, rector and university collegium. A university can also have a chancellor and other bodies. The supreme decision-making body in the university is the board.
The university board decides on the division of the university into faculties or other units and into their subordinate departments. The operations of a faculty or unit are led by a dean or other director, together with an administrative body consisting of several members.
Adult education and training
Adult education and training may be provided by local authorities, joint municipal authorities, registered associations or foundations. The administration of educational institutions is mainly managed by the institutional board appointed by the education provider.
Continuing education centres of universities are subordinate to the universities. The majority of adult education centres and vocational adult education centres are owned by local authorities or joint municipal authorities. Conversely, folk high schools, physical education centres, summer universities and study centres are private institutions under public supervision and they receive public support. Private maintaining bodies may include different non-profit making associations and foundations. Private adult education institutions have the right to function according to a certain ideology. The maintaining bodies of educational institutions include religious movements, political associations and labour market organisations.
The most important group of municipal adult education institutions is formed by adult education centres providing general education; the local authorities decide on their administration independently. Their boards can be the same body that lead the comprehensive and upper secondary schools in the municipality, or the local authority’s cultural and education board can manage the centre. In some municipalities, adult education centres have their own board. Ordinarily, the centres have their own principal, but principals may also have other cultural and educational duties in the municipality.
Vocational adult education and training is usually organised in the same educational institutions as vocational education and training for young people. The responsibility for an institution’s activities rests with its board and usually with a head of department or some other person specifically in charge of adult education and training. Vocational adult education centres, which only organise vocational education and training for adults, have a board accountable to the education provider and a principal responsible for day-to-day operations.